Sky’s Katie Keenan

The Penguin, the upcoming Colin Farrell series from Warner Bros. Television and DC Studios, will air exclusively on Sky and NOW in the U.K. this year. That acquisition followed the pay-TV operator’s deal with AMC to be the exclusive U.K. home for The Walking Dead universe, delivering the original series as well as its buzzy spin-offs to Sky’s subscribers. As group director of acquisitions for the U.K., Ireland and Europe, Katie Keenan is tasked with spotting properties that will resonate with Sky’s user base and complement its raft of originals. On the heels of attending the LA Screenings, Keenan tells World Screen about her acquisitions remit.

WS: What were you keeping an eye out for at the LA Screenings?
KEENAN: We were excited to see a variety of scripted dramas and limited series on offer this year, right in the heart of the entertainment industry on the studio lots. We are always on the lookout for premium, best-in-class content that has real talkability. It was great to hear the excitement from other buyers about seeing the Sky original The Day of the Jackal, and it very much lived up to the hype as the standout show from the screenings.

WS: What have been some of your breakout acquired successes over the last year?
KEENAN: Our acquired content has always been a key USP for Sky. We seek to offer our customers “the best of the U.S.” in terms of programming, alongside our strong slate of original TV series and films. Over the last year, we’ve had great success with several new acquisitions, including the comedy TED, a spin-off from Seth MacFarlane’s very successful film, and the standout CBS procedural Fire Country, which ignited our viewers on Sky Witness. We’re also incredibly proud to bring one of the biggest TV franchises in recent years, The Walking Dead, along with its spin-off shows, The Ones Who LiveDaryl Dixon and Dead City, to our customers this year. All the spin-off shows will be exclusive to Sky.

WS: How did last year’s U.S. strikes impact your acquisition strategy? And are you still seeing knock-on effects?
KEENAN: Our schedules were relatively unimpacted by the strikes. With clever planning, we were able to offer a seamless supply of quality content across our acquired and Sky original titles. It’s impressive to see so many shows go back into production so quickly after the strike, but where we have seen the impact was on the number of finished pilots available to screen in L.A. this year. We’ll get to see full episodes of these shows over the coming months, and we’re keen to see them and put them in the mix when making any decisions on what may or may not be suitable for Sky. Ideally, we’d want to have everything in the mix.

WS: Are you taking any new approaches to rights acquisition and shared windows?
KEENAN: From a windowing perspective, no. First run and exclusivity remain key for Sky. We’re a pay-TV platform, and our customers value content worth paying for, so we can’t have the same content on another service at the same time.

WS: Has your level of acquisitions—or content budget–changed in the last year or so? What changes do you expect for next year?
KEENAN: In terms of budget, this has remained broadly flat for us and will do so in 2025.

WS: We’ve heard about a “reset” in the global content sector. How do you view the state of the international distribution market at present?
KEENAN: It’s clear the distribution business has gone full circle, with more content coming back into the marketplace for buyers after the contraction we witnessed in recent years. As was the case before the launch of the streamers and studio DTCs, it was rare for a show to only ever have one home. The content ecosystem can’t survive like that; we’ve sadly seen that result, with many shows never seeing the light of day or disappearing from services in the last 12 months.

While some closed shop, the exciting thing that happened was the proliferation of suppliers with many more content creators, and that went hand in hand with a spirit and willingness to look at creative dealmaking, be open to different models and forge new partnerships.