COMMERCIAL TV BROADCASTER ITV has announced a four year partnership with pay TV giant British Sky Broadcasting.
At the heart of the agreement that was announced on Wednesday will be the new pay TV channel ITV Encore, which is set to be available across Sky properties including mobile service Sky Go and IPTV ancillary Now TV.
A range of archive shows is also included in the deal, which will be added to Sky's on-demand service. Following the broadcasters' recent spat with mobile TV service TV Catchup that saw them forceably remove their channels, the Sky agreement will also see the ITV channels stream live on Sky Go, joining Channel Four, which had also objected to the TV Catchup service as part of the same legal battle.
ITV Encore will be the first new channel from ITV in eight years and will showcase "quality drama" from the network, with original programming arriving in 2015. This original programming will set ITV Encore ahead of the existing ITV3, which already shows reruns of classic drama series.
With advertising revenues falling in recent years as the number of channels increases, the move towards premium services to provide "quality" programming has gained momentum. The most obvious comparison would be to Sky's own Sky Atlantic, which shows a range of first run US dramas as well as original commissions such as the cult comedy This Is Jinsy. However, unlike their American counterparts HBO and Showtime, these channels do not require additional payment on top of the basic package.
This is not the first time that ITV has joined forces with Sky. In the 1990s the two shared a five channel bouquet known as "Granada Sky Broadcasting", while more recently they were arch-rivals with the failed Ondigital - later ITV Digital - terrestrial service that was forced into administration after a bidding war with Sky over football rights.
ITV boss Adam Crozier said, "The time is absolutely right to build on our successful partnership with Sky with the launch of ITV Encore, which will be an important part of ITV's family of channels, and will complement ITV3, home to our long-running, classic drama series. ITV Encore is right in line with our strategy of growing non advertising revenues while at the same time creating even greater opportunities to showcase new drama."
At present no launch date has been set for the new channel and streaming services, and there is no word as to whether ITV Encore will be a Sky exclusive, leaving cable customers out in the cold. µ
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