Comcast's Sky Unveils Biggest Originals Slate With Shows From 'Night Manager,' 'The Batman' Writers

Sky
Courtesy of Sky

Sky

The European giant has also secured exclusive rights to a significant lineup of films, including 'Breaking News in Yuba County,' 'The U.S. vs Billie Holiday,' 'The Comeback Trail' and 'The Glorias.'

Comcast’s European giant Sky has announced a major slate of films and TV series falling under its "Sky Originals" banner that it says is its biggest lineup to date.

Among the new high-end scripted dramas announced are series from noted writers Paul Abbott (Shameless, No Offence), David Farr (The Night Manager) and Joe Barton (Giri/Haji, The Batman) in Wolfe, The Midwich Cuckoos and Extinction, respectively. These three join The Sceptred Isle, Michal Winterbottom’s limited series charting the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.K., which Sky revealed it was boarding over the weekend, with Kenneth Branagh set to play Boris Johnson.

Meanwhile, the broadcaster has pounced on a number of upcoming films, including the Allison Janney-starring Breaking News in Yuba County from Tate Taylor, Lee Daniels’ biopic The U.S. vs Billie Holiday, mob crime comedy The Comeback Trail starring Robert De Niro and Morgan Freeman, and Gloria Steinem biopic The Glorias.

Sky has also greenlit a number of documentaries, following on from the launch of its dedicated Sky Documentaries channel last year. Among them are Liverpool Narcos, looking into how Liverpool became the epicenter of a drugs boom in the 1980s; Bambers: Murder at the Farm, re-examining the murders that were recently dramatized in the ITV drama White House Farm; and Chernobyl 86, using a newly discovered archive to tell the story of the disaster (Sky partnered with HBO on the hugely successful Chernobyl miniseries).

The announcements — which also includes Greg Davis drama comedy Safe Space and stand-up travelogue Russell Howard’s Antipodean Adventure — are part of a doubling of Sky’s investment in original content by 2024, which it first announced in 2019.

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Sky’s managing director of content for the U.K. and Ireland Zai Bennett said the company is on track to reach a spend of £1 billion ($1.37 billion) on original content by 2024. “We’re definitely on the journey,” he said, adding that this year slate was a 50 percent increase in titles on 2020, and a double-digit increase in the number of hours and spend.

However, he pointed out that this target of £1 billion did not include its increased investment in original film.

The film slate will primarily be heading exclusively to Sky’s Sky Cinema channel, he said, although in some cases titles will be released theatrically day-and-date — assuming cinemas are open — in order for awards consideration.

The COVID-19 pandemic and increased demand for Sky’s services, he noted, had “accelerated” the company’s acquisition of films, many of which would have expected to receive a significant theatrical release prior to the crisis and subsequent lockdowns.

"I think we’ve offered them an alternative route to get these films in front of people that, in some cases, those distributors and sales agents can’t," said Bennett, claiming that the financial negotiations have tried to balance what works for Sky while also covering box office expectations.

Going forward, another recent acceleration was moving into films in the earlier stages of development.

"We’re commissioning from the off now," he said, pointing to the newly announced drama Save the Cinema, starring Samatha Morton and Jonathan Pryce as a film Sky had green lit and fully financed. “To get going, we've been heavy in the acquisitions market. And as that progresses, it'll become more co-productions and co-funding.”

Films exclusively acquired by Sky for its territories:

Save the Cinema
Kindred
Creation Stories
Breaking News in Yuba County
Six Minutes to Midnight
The Comeback Trail
Antebellum
The Glorias
Every Breath You Take
Extinct
Monster Family 2
The Secrets We Keep
Jolt
The U.S. vs Billie Holiday

Newly announced scripted dramas:

Wolfe: Babou Ceesay (Guerilla, Rogue One) stars as a lauded forensic pathologist in this new drama written by Paul Abbott. Coming Autumn 2021
The Midwich Cuckoos: John Wyndham’s science fiction novel is given a modern adaptation for the screen by David Farr. Expected in 2022.
Extinction: An action thriller about a man who keeps reliving the same day over and over again. Written by Joe Barton and starring Paapa Essiedu (I May Destroy You), Tom Burke (Strike), Anjli Mohindra (Bodyguard) and Caroline Quentin (Men Behaving Badly). Expected in 2022