Gangs of London (Courtesy of Sky Atlantic)
Comcast-owned British broadcaster Sky has announced a major rebrand of its channel portfolio, including the retirement of its flagship channel Sky One.
The long-running channel, which was first launched in 1982, has, over the decades, been home to everything from new episodes of “The Simpsons” to the “Friends” reunion special. But from Sept. 1., Sky One will be replaced by a new linear-only flagship called Sky Showcase, which will sit in the same slot (106) on the EPG, and feature a selection of content from across Sky’s portfolio, including Sky Nature, Sky Crime, Sky Arts and Sky Documentaries, among others.
Other changes planned by the broadcaster include the launch of an entirely new channel, Sky Max, which the network says will be the home of “blockbuster entertainment,” and a fine tuning of Sky Comedy, which launched in January 2020, to include British offerings in addition to U.S. ones.
“We’d like to think of it as a bit of a time for a reset,” Sky’s director of program strategy, Jamie Morris, told Variety. “It’s been really successful year [for Sky One], so the content is stronger than ever. We just want to make our portfolio offering as clear as possible to customers.”
The vision for Sky Showcase, Morris explained, is to “bring in content from across our portfolio. And it’ll be curated, so at any one point you can see a documentary sat side by side with an arts program side by side a comedy or a drama. So it will be literally all of our content across Sky in one destination.”
“Showcase is a very explicit name,” he added of the new moniker. “You know what it is, which is showcasing the best of Sky.”
Sky Max, meanwhile, will be both a channel and an “on-demand destination,” according to Morris. “And it will really be shorthand for ‘blockbuster entertainment,’ whether that’s in U.K. originals…or U.S. drama,” he said, pointing to titles such as “COBRA Cyberwar,” “The Flight Attendant” and “Never Mind the Buzzcocks,” which, according to Morris, will be a Sky Max-branded show in the future, as will “A League of Their Own” and “The Russell Howard Hour.”
Morris seemed clear, however, that there will be no overlap between Sky Max and Sky Atlantic, which he defined as “the home of U.S. premium drama, as in really chewy, grown-up drama” such as “Gangs of London” and “Landscapers.” Sky Max content is “really premium in values but entertainment at its heart.”
As for Sky Atlantic, although Sky’s long-standing deal with WarnerMedia looks increasingly unlikely to be renewed when it ends in 2025 (Warner has confirmed it will not roll out its SVOD service HBO Max in countries including the U.K. and Germany during the term of its existing output deal with Sky), Morris confirmed the broadcaster’s commitment to the channel. “Sky Atlantic is all about grown-up drama so we know there will always be a need for that,” he said. “And I think that will remain as such regardless of the future.”
In the meantime, Sky is focused on tightening up its genre-led approach to its portfolio. “Our channel brands are all about giving clear and concise messages to our customers,” Morris said. “I think there’s a lot of content out there and we want to be very clear with our customers that Sky stands for really premium originals, high quality and volume.”
Variety's K.J. Yossman contributed to this post.