Boardwalk Empire: Sky Atlantic show premiers in the UK this month
Boardwalk Empire: Sky Atlantic show premiers in the UK this month
A view from Emily Smith

Think BR: Sky targets Beeb with Atlantic launch

With a roster of top quality imports, the launch of Sky Atlantic heralds a change in strategy for Sky as it looks to diversify its customer base, writes Emily Smith, broadcast buyer at UM London.

Tonight, Sky launches its hotly anticipated new channel Sky Atlantic, which indicates an important change in direction for the broadcaster.

The channel has been touted as the "new home of HBO" and Sky has reached a five-year, £150m deal with the US network, guaranteeing both the back catalogue and access to new series.

Launching with the fanfare show 'Boardwalk Empire', Sky Atlantic is also showing series such as 'Mad Men', 'Entourage' and 'Curb your Enthusiasm', all previously available to view on free-to-air channels.

The launch of the channel is likely to increase competitiveness, and there is already talk of how other broadcasters will cope with losing key US imports.

It is widely believed that the only way other UK broadcasters will be able to continue to have access to US imports is by becoming involved during the very early stages of programme development.

Having reached 10 million subscribers at the end of 2010, Sky is now looking to continue to grow and diversify its customer base, with Sky Atlantic likely to be key to this strategy.

However, some commentators believe the addition of the new channel will help to gain more revenue out of existing users, offer current users more value and ultimately aid in retaining as many Sky households as possible.

If Sky’s aim is to attract more new subscribers to the service then it will be interesting to see how Sky Atlantic continues to develop.

The UK fans of HBO’s output are likely to look to DVD boxsets or online to get their fix and may not be used to paying a monthly subscription to pay-TV services, so Sky will have to play heavily on the added-value it can offer.

It seems to be a realisation that its previous focus may have been too narrow and it is now looking to attract what can be considered a more predominantly BBC viewer – one who generally tends to shy away from commercial channels in the search of "quality broadcasting".

This is a lucrative audience that will be of interest to many TV advertisers, as its usual preference for non-commercial channels makes it typically more difficult to reach.

Emily Smith, broadcast buyer at UM London