Sky to pump £600m into original programmes

Writers prepare to be shocked and pleased – Sky is no longer just the home of The Simpsons, sports and films.

Sky Arts has commissioned £600m worth of new commissions over the next two years, with big names such as Emma Thompson, Stephen Fry and Sir Tom Jones – yes, the singer – all acting in new productions.

For many years the broadcaster was best known for poaching successful shows once terrestrial broadcasters showed they had legs, and while it has invested in a few original sereis, such as adaptations of Sir Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series and Mad Dogs, writing for Sky has never really been an option for screenwriters.

This is to change according to Sky. and part of the funding boost is earmarked for new works of art and talent with Sky Ignition, teaming up with several arts organisations.

Making home on the expanded Sky Arts channel, which launched back in 2007, are lefty media types Sandi Toksvig and Melvyn Bragg, bringing them that little bit closer to News Corporation (which as we all know, doesn’t completely control BSkyB) stablemates The Sun and Fox News.

Whether this will lead to a Sky version of the BBC Writers Room, which exists to nurture new writing talent, remains to be seen, but fair play to Sky on this. For many years they have largely existed on taking safe bets with surefire US hits and films, so it’ll be interesting to see what effect the revamped channel has both on audiences and Britain’s other broadcasters.