Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Sky Atlantic: launching 1 February

Wednesday, 5 January 2011
The Home Of World Class Television

Sky have confirmed that Sky Atlantic will launch on 1 February. This is a new channel designed to be Sky's "home of world class television" -- primarily showing the exclusive HBO content Sky bought the UK rights to for five years, at a cost of £150m.

Sky Atlantic has also acquired Showtime's historical drama The Borgias, starring Jeremy Irons, and CBS cop show Blue Bloods, starring Tom Selleck and Donnie Wahlberg. These will receive their UK premiere later in the year.

Stuart Murphy, Director of Programmes for Sky1/Sky Atlantic:

Unlike other broadcasters, Sky won't hide these series in the twilight hours -- we feel incredibly proud of this content and feel privileged to air it in peak time, in high definition, exclusively for all Sky customers. Sky Atlantic HD is unashamedly dedicated to quality.

As the home of HBO in the UK, it's the place where the world's best talent -- whether on screen or off, American or homegrown -- come to do some of their most creative work. Sky Atlantic HD is a key part of our strategy to help further grow the content gap between what you can get with Sky, and what you can get elsewhere.
Interestingly, it's not just American drama on Sky Atlantic. Britain's own Paul Abbott (State Of Play, Shameless) has a new six-part drama debuting on SkyA called Hit & Miss, about a pre-op transexual hitman whose terminally ill ex-girlfriend reveals he has a 10-year-old son. Sounds... um, very interesting!

The big news is that HBO's acclaimed gangster epic Boardwalk Empire is SkyA's launch night gem, making its UK premiere on 1 February. AMC's Emmy-winning Mad Men, which has been poached from BBC4, will also return for its fifth season as a SkyA exclusive -- in a move that's upset existing British fans who have no intention of subscribing to Sky to watch their favourite show. I'm predicting a boost in bittorrenting and box-set purchases for 2011...

Other shows expected to air on Sky Atlantic, as UK premieres or repeats, are as follows:

Angels In America
Battlestar Galactica
Bored To Death
Big Love
Boardwalk Empire
Bored To Death
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Eastbound & Down
Empire Falls
Flight Of The Conchords
Funny Or Die
Game of Thrones
Generation Kill
How To Make It In America
In Treatment
Inside The Actors Studio
Mad Men
Mildred Pierce
Six Feet Under
Tell Me You Love Me
The Mind of the Married Man
The Pacific
The Sopranos
The Wire
The X-Files

What do you make of Sky Atlantic's plans? Is it great to see Sky treating these shows with more respect than other broadcasters? Is it wrong of Sky to have denied carriage of Sky Atlantic to Virgin Media and BT Vision subscribers, or just good business?

And while Sky Atlantic certainly sounds like a prime destination for terrific drama on UK TV, the fact remains that relatively few people will actually be watching. Hasn't a huge swathe of drama actually been denied to the majority of Britons come February? And how do you feel about the fact Mad Men's been stolen from the BBC and will now have adverts interrupting its flow?