SkyArts doubles pitching potential

Cultural programming is feeling the pinch, with both Channel 4 and ITV slashing budgets. Yet one brave broadcaster is not just re-examining its cultural output, it is doubling it.

Sky Arts
Sky Arts

SkyArts began life as Artsworld, and BSkyB took full control of the channel in 2005. This month, the broadcaster is launching SkyArts2 to focus on high-brow themes such as ballet and opera, leaving its original SkyArts1 channel to rebrand to target its growing younger market.

James Hunt, SkyArts manager, sums up the channel with one word: contemporary. 'SkyArts1 will be targeting a younger demographic of around 35 years and over,' he says. 'There will be a daily rock strand of iconic performances from Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana, David Bowie and others.'

He continues: 'We have so much great content to offer and one channel simply wasn't enough. SkyArts2 makes us easier to find. One night you may watch opera, the next a documentary on England's forgotten impressionists.'

Opportunities for PR professionals do not end there. The creation of SkyArts2 means that a total of 36 hours of programming a week is now up for grabs. But Sky's cultural offering is often overlooked in favour of more general arts programmes. Simon Magill, comms manager at the Royal Opera House, has more of a relationship with BBC2's The Culture Show - although he is not entirely sure why this is.

'We haven't really dealt with SkyArts before. We mostly work with The Culture Show, but also gain coverage on The South Bank Show and Channel 4's extended arts news. It just happens that way,' he explains.

'The Culture Show gives us an audience interested in a little bit of everything. It has covered everything from our ballet season to prolonged features with one of our opera directors,' adds Magill.

However, agencies that have taken up the SkyArts mantle are so far more than pleased with its results. Arts and entertainment agency Midas PR regularly works with The Book Show - due back on screens on SkyArts1 at the end of October.

Emma Draude, board director at Midas, says: 'The Book Show has been instrumental in growing our authors' profiles on television in an age where author interviews based purely on the craft of writing are rare. It is refreshing to find a show that takes an intelligent look at books, the authors behind them and industry trends.'

SkyArts is open to pitches of all kinds. 'We are looking for agencies offering us musicians, artists, sculptors, dancers - even graffiti artists,' says Hunt.

In an era of fast-moving news and even faster entertainment, the arts are often glossed over without a second glance. SkyArts is crying out for PR professionals to wake up and smell the culture.

 

QUICK FACTS

To be seen on: SkyArts1 - digital channel 256
SkyArts2 - digital channel to be confirmed
Weekly viewing figures: 58,000 (source: BARB)
Times: Daily from 8am to 2am
Contact: Channel manager James Hunt, james.hunt@bskyb.com

 

A MINUTE WITH ... JAMES HUNT, CHANNEL MANAGER, SKYARTS

- Describe the channels

SkyArts1 will be much more contemporary than it has been, aimed at people in their thirties. SkyArts2 will now be our traditional channel for a slightly older audience, giving them a classical performance every evening.

- What are you looking for from PROs?

High-quality programming in HD. The new channel gives PR professionals a wide brief. We are very receptive to approaches. It fascinates us that arts agencies do not use us more.

- What can SkyArts offer its contributors?

Firstly, kudos and recognition to anything or anyone who appears. Secondly, as other broadcasters do not want to engage in the arts as much, we are raising the bar and making it as compelling as any other channel on the Sky network. For example, in Songbook, the hour is dedicated to one artist who discusses his or her songs and craft. Recently, Phil Collins flew in from Switzerland to appear. Finally, we have such a lot of airtime on offer now. The programmes will allow in-depth features.

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