U.K.'s ITV to Launch Drama Channel on Sky Platform

Adam Crozier – P 2013
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The commercial broadcaster will roll out ITV Encore across the U.K. satellite operator, in which Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox owns a 39 percent stake.

LONDON – U.K. commercial TV network ITV is launching a catch-up pay channel dedicated to "the very best" of its British drama output that has aired on its main terrestrial channel.

Programs such as Lucan, starring Rory Kinnear in a fictionalized account of the flamboyant aristocrat Lord Lucan who disappeared into thin air the same night his nanny was found bludgeoned to death, in his and Vera, the Brenda Blethyn detective drama based on Ann Cleeves' crime fiction, will be part of ITV Encore, the pay-TV channel's schedule.

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An ITV spokesperson told THR it would also carry original commissions from 2015.

ITV Encore, which will be available on Sky, the U.K. satellite broadcaster in which Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox owns a 39 percent stake, marks ITV’s first brand new channel launch in eight years and forms part of a wider four year partnership with Sky, -- ITV’s biggest ever partnership with a platform operator.

The new channel will be home to some of ITV’s most successful drama series of recent years, but ITV is yet to finalize any scheduling and said it would be "pure speculation" to expect old seasons of hit show Downton Abbey to be pushed out on ITV Encore.

A spokesperson underlined that the channel would not be a first destination for fresh series of programs that currently air on ITV's free-to-air commercial web of channels.

In addition, as part of the wider deal with Sky, ITV content will be made available through Sky’s range of connected platforms, including Sky+HD, Sky Go, NOW TV and Sky Store.

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ITV chief executive Adam Crozier said:"A key part of our strategy is to become the most watched, most loved and most talked about family of free and pay channels for every household and every advertiser in the U.K."

Crozier said the time is "absolutely right" to build on the broadcaster's partnership with Sky with the launch of ITV Encore, "which will be an important part of ITV’s family of channels, and will complement ITV3, home to our long-running, classic drama series."  

"ITV Encore is right in line with our strategy of growing non advertising revenues while at the same time creating even greater opportunities to showcase new drama," Crozier added. 

Sky chief executive Jeremy Darroch said:"Our customers love great drama and so we are delighted to bring them exclusive access to a new channel from one of the best loved brands in TV. The wider availability of ITV programs on our fast-growing connected TV services, including Sky Go, Sky Store and NOW TV, will make Sky stand out as a great place to enjoy ITV, on multiple devices, both at home and on the go."

In addition to being available on Sky’s satellite platform, ITV Encore will also be available on NOW TV, Sky’s internet TV service.

The wider deal with Sky includes the renewal of the carriage deal for ITV 2, 3 and 4 HD and ITV catch-up and archive VOD on the Sky Plus HD platform, including an extended range of high quality TV box sets.