UK satellite broadcaster BSkyB has not enjoyed the same recognition for its influence on film as it has on sport, which has been revolutionised by its multi-channel offering.

The film industry's television focus has been turned far more towards the BBC and Channel Four, both of whom have a production remit. Indeed, it is symptomatic of the industry's worldview that production has been a more dominant issue than non-theatrical distribution.

For Ian Lewis, who for the last year has been director of Sky Movies and Sky Box Office, there is a certain irony there because he has been steadily been widening the choice of films available.

"In many ways the commercial sector is filling the gap that the public sector isn't delivering on," he says.

Even given the satellite company's natural commercial antipathy towards public-funded broadcasting, he has a point.

Arthouse and specialty film have struggled to find a place on terrestrial television, whose schedules have increasingly been dominated by reality shows and talent competitions.

Meanwhile, Sky has expanded its services to broaden the range of film. Given that competitive new means to access film arise every day, Sky has increasingly recognised that choice is critical.

Lewis oversaw a rethink of Sky's film offering, dividing the channels by genre rather than channel numbers.

"When you are in the industry, you might look at 90% of the titles and know what they are straight away but you forget sometimes that people do not have the same level of knowledge.

"When you see a mass of titles on screen, it is psychologically easy to be drawn to the titles you recognise. The restructure was designed to show the range of titles we offer."

The broadcaster has been experimenting with week-long themed seasons showcasing the back catalogue, including westerns and musicals, with some success.

Perhaps even more significant is the development of a broader set of independent films that will challenge popular notions of public taste: the Sky Indie channel features arthouse, specialty or foreign-language film, with titles given a run of screenings.

"As you would expect, that channel has a smaller audience," says Lewis, "but there is always an audience and there is a destination. And we are finding people are prepared to try films they might not otherwise have considered."

The commitment has extended to what may prove significant experiments, notably a simultaneous cinema and Sky release of Fatih Akin's The Edge Of Heaven - an idea that will be repeated with Erick Zonca and Camille Natta's Julia.

Lewis says the resultant box office for The Edge Of Heaven was pretty much bang on the estimates from Artificial Eye.

"But what they got on top was a significant number of eyes that would not have seen that film because, with the best will in the world, it would have made it on to 20 or 30 screens. It only benefited from the exposure."

The efficiencies that came with marketing both theatrical and TV releases were significant and Rob Kenny, COO at Curzon Artificial Eye, told last week's Europa Cinemas conference in Paris that the deal extended the reach of the film to new customers.

While for exhibitors the release windows issue remains a hot potato, Lewis believes there are clear synergies between theatre and television that the industry must take on.

"For some people, everything starts with a zero sum. There is cannibalisation and there is nothing else but I don't think that is right."

Lewis believes BSkyB, cinema and other film outlets can have a symbiotic relationship, with each form of release creating more film fans.

As a broadcaster, he clearly wants the choice of where to watch product to include Sky as a very prominent part of the jigsaw. Indeed the viewing environment, including HD and customer flexibility, including Sky Plus, are intended to seriously enhance the offer.

Video on demand is already part of the offer and that will expand. "Today, it is not the most important bit. But it is more important than it was yesterday and it will be still more important tomorrow."

But the key for the industry is that Sky is part of the paying window for film consumers. It is not a leech on the business.

"We cater for all the different needs because we want all the customers we can get," says Lewis.