Sky Studios and Italy’s The Apartment, the Fremantle-owned production company headed by Lorenzo Mieli, have forged a multi-year development and production partnership that marks Sky’s first agreement of this type outside the U.K.
Under the deal, Sky Studios, which is the Comcast-owned pay-TV broadcaster dedicated production arm, will provide The Apartment development funding for a minimum of three shows alongside a commitment to produce.
Mieli, a co-founder of Fremantle’s Wildside and the producer behind globally successful shows such as “The Young Pope” and “My Brilliant Friend,” as well as Luca Guadagnino’s upcoming “We Are Who We Are,” founded The Apartment, which is a separate Italian Fremantle unit, in January 2020 as an incubator of high-end projects for the international market.
Speaking to Variety, Sky Studios CEO Gary Davey underlined that “the objective that Lorenzo and I have agreed [on] is that we will be primarily looking for international projects.” Projects, that is, with a “European sensibility” and international talent behind and in front of the camera.
Davey did not rule out that “Italian” projects could be taken into consideration, but made it clear that, as has been the case with “Pope” and “Friend,” he is seeking international hits. Mieli will be drawing from a wide pan-European talent pool.
Mieli noted that Sky “has led the way in spearheading a European production ecosystem” that now churns out high-end TV shows that compete on equal footing with U.S. product. “This was unthinkable just a few years ago,” he noted.
The deal, which is non-exclusive, strengthens the existing tie between Mieli and Sky that started with Paolo Sorrentino’s “The Young Pope.” That show was initially “a project in Italy,” Davey said. And then “we scaled it up from an Italian project to an international project,” he noted. “And it was really because of the relationship with Lorenzo that we were able to do that,” he noted.
Mieli said the agreement with Sky Studios is very flexible as far as who would handle distribution outside of the territories where Sky operates which are U.K., Ireland, Italy, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Spain. Sky is the largest satellite TV operator in Europe with roughly 23 million subs.
“They can be distributed by us,” Mieli noted. “Or if other partners come in, it can be them, depending on scale; It’s a very flexible agreement,” he said. “We will understand together how to vehicle these products in the rest of the world.”
As for the projects themselves, Mieli said details are premature but that they would encompass “auteur TV” of the same ilk as shows he’s done with Sorrentino and Guadagnino, as well as “other [more classic] genres.”
Davey called the agreement with The Apartment “part of the broader broader remit of Sky Studios” to step up not only the level of investment, but also investment into our own internal capability, and to bring strong partnerships with people in the creative community.”
Launched last June Sky Studios has currently has 52 scripted shows in production across Europe. Sky has also announced plans for Sky Studios Elstree, a new film and TV studio with 14 sound stages that’s set to open in 2022.