Sky has revealed it spent £380m on UK-originated programming in the year to July 2011 and plans to boost investment to £600m a year by 2014.
Over the next three years, the pay-TV broadcaster will both triple its spend on Sky Arts and on drama airing across its entertainment channels. It is also planning cash boosts for comedy and factual.
It is the first time that Sky has broken out its spend on originations, stripping out sports rights, acquisitions and movie deals.
Making precise like-for-like comparisons is almost impossible, given the way different broadcasters publish their figures, but Sky claims its existing investment means it spent more last year on UK programming than Channel 4 (£322.6m) and Channel 5 (£69m). ITV spends £696m on UK shows, according to Sky.
Sky’s figures exclude its wholesale distribution agreement with US studio HBO, but include the wages of 2,500 employees in in-house production and broadcasting, and the general costs of running Sky News.
Sky chief executive Jeremy Darroch revealed the figures and spending plans at an event held by think tank Reform this week, in a speech designed to combat the industry perception that it does not invest sufficiently in UK-originated content.
Darroch said that as Sky matured, it would have greater opportunity to broaden its output beyond sports, movies and news.
“Home-grown content resonates strongly and we believe we can both bring more quality and value to existing customers, while also reaching out to more people who haven’t yet chosen pay TV,” he said.
“Our plans will take our original entertainment to an entirely different scale. They will mean working with the best production, writing and acting talent, and will require focus and creative ambition as well as sustained financial investment.
“Programming like this is inherently risky and time-consuming. But if we get it right, the results won’t just be good for our business, but for customers and Britain’s creative industries as well.”
The push on origination comes as Sky begins to press its claims ahead of the planned overhaul of the Communications Act. It is keen to secure more protection from piracy for content owners, and to get guarantees that there will be no interference from regulators in the distribution of its content.
Sky is locked in a dispute with Ofcom about the regulator’s decision to force it to offer Sky Sports to rivals BT Vision and Virgin Media at a fixed price. It has lodged an appeal, but a verdict is not expected until next year.
Sky has been increasing its spend on UK commissions in recent years and has ordered content from more than 100 indies over the past 12 months. Major commissions have included dramas Thorne and Mad Dogs, comedies This Is Jinsy and Trollied, and doc Flying Monsters 3D.
This story was originally published by Broadcast.