Sky nears Disney deal, reveals plans for documentary and nature channels

Tiger Woods – The Comeback

UK-based pay TV operator Sky is on the brink of securing a distribution deal for fledgling streamer Disney+ and is preparing to launch two new factual channels, Sky Documentaries and Sky Nature.

Plans for the channels follow the launch of Sky Crime in October and Sky Comedy, which arrives on the platform today. The introduction of the new services follows on from Sky’s recent launch of Sky Studios, Sky’s Europe-wide development and production capability which the broadcaster says will see its investment in original content more than double over the next five years.

Sky said that the latest arrivals will offer hundreds of hours of factual programming, including original commissions and acquired content, and extensive on-demand libraries.

The channels will launch in the spring and be available to Sky customers at no extra charge as linear and on demand services. They will also be available on on OTT option Now TV as part of the Now TV Entertainment Pass.

Sky Documentaries

Sky Documentaries will feature content from the likes of HBO and Showtime as well as new Sky original documentaries, with a mix of feature length documentaries and series encompassing topics from sport and real-world controversies through to biographies.

New originals will include Bitter Pill: Primodos and Tiger Woods: The Comeback, alongside HBO exclusives McMillions from executive producer Mark Wahlberg and After Truth directed by Andrew Rossi. Content from Showtime includes The Kingmaker directed by Lauren Greenfield.

The channel will be accompanied by an on-demand library of documentaries including What’s My Name: Muhammad Ali and Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind.

Sky Nature

Sky Nature will feature natural history programming, including Sky’s existing David Attenborough collection, and it will also become home to Love Nature programming on Sky.

Originals on the channel will include Extreme Animals: One Wild Day and Extreme Animals: Life’s First Steps, with two further originals in development. Love Nature originals will include Amazing Animal Friends and Wild Tales From The Farm.

Zai Bennett, managing director of Content at Sky, said: “Premium documentaries and nature series are increasingly important to our customers, with them wanting to get to the shows they want as quickly as possible. That’s why we’re launching two new content brands, Sky Documentaries and Sky Nature.

“These new channels will offer our customers an unrivalled destination for brand new, world class documentaries and nature programming as well as an extensive on demand library of the world’s best factual programmes.”

Disney+ deal

Sky is also poised to strike a distribution deal with Disney for its fledgling streamer, Disney+, which launches in the UK on March 24.

According to The Daily Telegraph, the parties are close to an agreement which would significantly improve the visibility of the soon-to-launch SVOD. The report claims that a multi-year partnership was being finalised this weekend and that the plan is to launch Disney+ on its pay TV platform Sky Q day-and-date with its wider British launch.

The deal would serve as something similar to Sky’s arrangement with Netflix, which was recently renewed. That partnership lets Sky integrate Netflix programming alongside its own original content and other on-demand content within the Sky Q user interface, with Netflix series such as The Crown and Stranger Things often promoted heavily.

The deal will allow Liberty Global’s Virgin Media and BT to carry the Disney+ app, but they will not be able to integrate Disney’s programming within their menus.

Disney has had a long-standing relationship with Sky, with the pair’s complex relationship being part of the reason for the service’s delayed rollout. Disney’s deal with Sky, factoring in Fox, is spread across five European markets and is worth approximately £800m per year. This existing deal was due to expire in Q1 2020.

Such a distribution deal for Disney+ in the UK would follow a similar deal agreed with Canal+ in France last month.

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