News Corp's BSkyB Pledges To Ramp Up British Made for TV Movie Investment

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Two days after news that James Murdoch has quit as chairman of the company, the U.K. satcaster carves out a "significant" sum from a $953 million budget for fiction and feature-length docs.

LONDON – U.K. satcaster BSkyB plans to carve out a part of its £600 million ($953 million) pledge to original programming for British made-for-tv movies.

Sky said it will pump “significant” resources into projects for family audiences on its main film channel Sky Movies and fresh documentary features for its Sky Atlantic channel, the satcaster’s current home of high profile U.S. shows includiing Mad Men, Boardwalk Empire and Game of Thrones.

STORY U.K. Broadcasters ITV, BSkyB Told To Do More for British Film

The made-for-TV movies will air from 2013, Sky said.

The plans come with a dedicated six-figure development fund to work across submissions for the family content, which if greenlit for production will have budgets of around £5 million ($7.9 million), Sky said.

Examples of the sort of work Sky is hoping to match is its recent TV movies Treasure Island, starring Eddie Izzard and Elijah Wood and the Rhys Ifans and Anna Friel starrer Neverland based on J M Barrie’s Peter Pan creation.

Digital channel Sky Atlantic HD will introduce a peak-time strand for documentaries in early 2013 with up to a dozen documentaries on the new documentary slate.

Sky says it is sending its doc brief “to the world’s best documentary makers to come to the channel with bold ideas.”

The plans mark a renewed interest and push into the local British movie industry and comes just months after the Film Policy Review called on the satcaster and other broadcasters to step up their commitment to the homegrown industry.

Sky has been investing in and developing movies on and off for the last 10 years but this pledge to devote cash from its programming budget for TV movies is sure to be welcomed by producers.

Sky chief executive Jeremy Darroch said: “We know British programming resonates strongly with our customers so we’ve been building our capability and credibility in this area over the last couple of years. I’m very encouraged by the progress we’ve achieved so far, particularly in original comedy and drama, but we’re only at the start and we’re determined to raise our ambitions again and keep improving.”

James Murdoch Steps Down as BSkyB Chairman

The good news public pledge comes in the same week BSkyB chairman James Murdoch quit his role ending growing speculation in the British media surrounding his tenure there.

News Corp. owns a 39 percent stake in BSkyB. James Murdoch previously severed all ties to News Corp.'s U.K. publishing arm News International, which has been the focus of a phone-hacking scandal.

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