Sky UK reveals cut in scripted & factual programming hours

Mary & George

European pay-TV giant Sky expects to commission fewer hours of scripted and factual programming in the UK, content chief Zai Bennett has revealed.

Sky’s MD of content in the UK & Ireland discussed the shift in strategy here at the Edinburgh TV Festival, admitting that while spending could increase across the two genres, the amount of programming ordered would fall.

Bennett said “the same amount of hours and same spend” would be budgeted for in arts, kids and entertainment programming, with the comments coming as the cost of producing drama and factual continues to rise.

With the cost-of-living crisis increasingly making production more difficult and forcing freelance workers to leave the industry, Bennett said that “spending is the best thing” that broadcasters can do to support producers, adding “we’re doing that.”

Joining the panel was Sky Studios’ UK original drama director Meghan Lyvers, who highlighted recent drama successes for Sky, such as Funny Woman, which she said was “a real bright spot for us”. The show, from UK duo Potboiler and Rebel Park Productions, was today extended into a second season.

Lyvers also pointed to Pulse Films-produced Gangs Of London, which she said showcased Sky’s ability to “resonate with global audiences”, with the series also airing on AMC in the US.

Prestige & definitive

Lyvers added that Sky is looking for “prestige limited event series space” such as its upcoming Mary & George and The Tattooist Of Auschwitz that feel like “moments in time” that become “the definitive story on that subject matter.”

Meanwhile, Poppy Dixon, Sky Uk’s documentary and factual chief, said that Sky audiences “like a local story that is well crafted and has something new to say” and pointed to The Essex Murders as a recent success, with the true crime show becoming the highest rated Sky factual series with a million viewers per episode on average.

“With true crime we don’t want to do just a salacious profile of a killer,” said Dixon, with new shows revealed including House Of Kardashian from Fremantle-owned 72 Films and Tell Them You Love Me, from Louis Theroux’s prodco Mindhouse.

“We look for big bold narrative series and feature docs – contemporary stories that will get people talking. Talkability is a buzzword for us,” said the exec, adding that, “Sports is always going to be big for us,” she added. “We would loke a big franchisable sports series, with incredible access to sporting icons.”

On entertainment shows, Dwayne Eaton, arts & entertainment commissioning executive, said that Sky wants shows featuring “premium talent.”

“We want to showcase the best talent that this country has to offer,” said Eaton, adding that Sky is looking for “distinctive ideas” that wouldn’t be find on another broadcaster “with big name talent attached” and a topic that the talent is really passionate about. Sky is not looking for reality TV or quiz shows or gameshows, he added.

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