Sky Studios Talks Strategy at Series Mania

Speaking at a panel organized by Series Mania’s Forum, executives from Sky Studios touted flexibility and autonomy as their keys to success, teasing further synergies with fellow Comcast-owned services like Peacock and SkyShowtime while emphasizing that such broadcast bids were but one option among many.

“[We take things] very case-by-case,” said Meghan Lyvers, director of original drama at Sky Studios U.K. “Not all projects that we develop as Sky Originals in Europe will go into the SkyShowtime cluster of territories, [but] they can. And we [welcome] this flexibility, because it allows projects to come to us with other territories attached.”  

Prompted by Variety’s Manori Ravindran, and flanked onstage by colleagues Nils Hartmann, Tobias Rosen and Sonia Rovai from Sky Studios Germany and Italy, Lyvers accented Sky Studios’ wider commissioning activities, saying: “This is the team that develops, commissions, or buys series, and then [either] makes or programs them on Sky as Sky Originals.”

The exec pointed toward upcoming projects like the Eddie Redmayne led “The Day of the Jackal” and the literary adaptation “The Tattooist of Auschwitz,” which were co-commissioned by Sky Studios and NBCUniversal’s Peacock, while noting that Sky Originals like “Gangs of London” and the upcoming Julianne Moore starrer “Mary & George” found broadcast homes outside of Europe (and outside of the corporate family) with AMC Networks.

‘Gangs of London’

The panelists offered a resounding ‘no comment’ when asked about a rumored Comcast selloff that could split up the U.K, Italian and German divisions, while using questions about a contracting U.S. market and concerns about a looming WGA strike to stress Sky Studios’ entrenched and autonomous position within the continental industry.  

“[We’re looking at] more collaboration and more co-productions in terms of Europe,” said Lyvers.

“Flexibility is key,” she continued. “If we could support and finance [an expensive production] ourselves we’ll happily take that risk, because we believe the quality and stories will [help these series sell] later down the line. That’s just changing the touchpoint of when we go into the U.S. market, because ultimately a lot of these series will land, just not at the earliest stage.”

That thread of European cooperation also links much of Sky Studios’ upcoming Italian-language slate, which includes the rise-of-Mussolini drama “M. Son of the Century” from director Joe Wright (“Darkest Hour”) and the migrant thriller “Orizzonte: Hostages of the Sea” from German filmmaker Oliver Hirschbiegel (“Downfall”).

The Series Mania panel then drew to a close with an extended preview of the Germany language “Helgoland 513.” Written and directed by Robert Schwentke, and co-produced by UFA Fiction and Sky Studios, the sci-fi drama imagines a world post eco-apocalypse, bringing to screen a wash of dystopian visuals and bursts of violence in a trailer scored to Lorde’s brooding cover of “Everybody Wants To Rule the World.”  

“That’s our newest comedy,” deadpanned Sky Studio Germany VP Tobias Rosen. “German humor.” 

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