Katie Keenan is responsible for formulating and leading the strategic vision for the sourcing and acquiring of content for all Sky’s content services in the U.K. and Europe. As group director of acquisitions for the U.K., Ireland and Europe, she manages the relationships and deal execution with all content rights suppliers, including the U.S. studios. In her four years at Sky, having joined the company in 2019 after serving as Channel 5’s head of acquisitions, Keenan has renewed all of Sky’s key content deals with the major studios. She talks to TV Drama about her current drama acquisition wish list.
TV DRAMA: How much of the Sky slate is drama? And of that, how much is acquired product?
KEENAN: At Sky, we have a huge array of content services and channels, and there is a real mix of genres. There is a lot of drama content across all of our different services. We have our premium content brand Sky Atlantic, which is 100 percent drama content. That’s a mix of great Sky originals but also fantastic content from around the world, and that’s where we house a lot of our HBO drama content as well.
There are different types of drama content on Sky Witness, where we have 100 percent acquired content. It is the hub for the best crime procedurals that we have, mainly from the U.S. Another one of our content brands, Sky Max, is a mix of non-scripted and scripted content, as well as original and acquired content.
The key for all of our great suppliers out there is to know that Sky has a healthy appetite for content from across the world. There is a real focus on bringing the best of the U.S. content. That’s always been one of Sky’s unique selling points, and that continues today as well.
TV DRAMA: What are some of the key attributes that you have to keep top of mind when acquiring dramas to suit the channels but also to reflect your audience?
KEENAN: As a pay-TV platform, we have to believe that the content that we commission and acquire is content worth paying for. That’s the lens that we analyze our decisions around for the shows that we do pick up. There’s such a wide range of channel brands that we have at Sky. Sometimes, we’ll be looking for drama that caters to laid-back, easy-watching, and sometimes real edge-of-your-seat drama.
A good example is a show that we picked up from HBO Max, The Staircase, which is top-of-the-range in terms of a lens inside that true-life crime story—it’s edge-of-your-seat viewing. A show that we picked up from Cineflix Rights earlier this year is an Australian drama called Last King of The Cross. It is a fantastic drama that was bought knowing that it is a great companion piece for fans to play alongside Gangs of London, a Sky original. We also picked up The Swarm earlier this year from Beta Film, which is great content for Sky SYFY. There’s a different need state for our different content brands, so there’s a variety of drama content across the Sky portfolio. That’s true of Sky UK, our German service and our Italian service as well. There are certainly rich pickings out there within the market.
TV DRAMA: What are you currently on the lookout for concerning drama acquisitions?
KEENAN: The key thing we look for is the ability for those shows to cut through in terms of awareness and talkability. In every bucket of drama acquisition that we’re buying for each of our brands, we’re always buying the very best within the market. That’s key, and that leads to the fact that we’re a pay-TV platform.
For Sky Witness, we have all of the best procedurals that the U.S. has to offer. When we’re looking at Sky Max, which is more of a chewy entertainment brand, something like Poker Face that we launched earlier this year—I was proud of that acquisition, which was a Peacock show that we bought from Paramount—that’s cut through for our Sky Max audience.
So, talent is key, along with larger-than-life characters. And for a lot of the shows that maybe sit outside of the procedural brands that we have across the U.K. and the European territories, they have to wow our customers. It is the best of what’s out there in the market—that’s key for Sky.
TV DRAMA: When it comes to rights, what’s your stance on exclusivity?
KEENAN:As a pay-TV platform, exclusivity is key for our customers. For first-run content, we wouldn’t consider anything that is not exclusive. That’s a red line for us: exclusive, first-run drama.