Sky plans to build major new studio in UK

New complex, with 14 sound stages, will be located near Elstree, north of London

Sky said the Elstree space would  play host to major film productions from other Comcast units like Universal Pictures, Focus Features and Working Title. Photograph: iStock

Sky said the Elstree space would play host to major film productions from other Comcast units like Universal Pictures, Focus Features and Working Title. Photograph: iStock

 

Comcast’s Sky plans to build a major new studio in the UK, as the global streaming war forces media companies to secure more space for upcoming productions.

Sky will build 14 sound stages on a 32-acre (13-hectare) site north of London, the company said in a statement, without disclosing the cost. The development would be on a scale similar to Britain’s current two largest studios – Pinewood and Shepperton – which have 18 stages and 15 stages, respectively.

The new complex will be located near an independent studio in the village of Elstree, a film hub that’s been active since before the First World War, where productions including Netflix’s series The Crown, as well as the Indiana Jones and Star Wars trilogies, were filmed.

Facilities to shoot movies and TV shows have become a hot commodity as Netflix, Apple and Walt Disney pump billions of dollars into original content to win subscribers for their video-on-demand services – all at a time when production space worldwide is limited.

“The market is hotter than ever,” said Chris Berry, head of media at Lambert Smith Hampton, a commercial real estate consulting firm in London. “The demand-and-supply imbalance is stronger than it ever has been, and the streaming channels have exacerbated that.”

Exclusive deal

Comcast’s streaming rivals have also recently locked down space in the UK Netflix struck an exclusive deal with Shepperton in July, while Disney will take most of Pinewood’s stage space – where it recently shot The Rise of Skywalker and Dumbo – for 10 years from 2020.

Sky, which is planning to invest £1 billion in original programming a year through its production arm Sky Studios, said the Elstree space would also play host to major film productions from other Comcast units like Universal Pictures, Focus Features and Working Title, as well as third-party producers.

Comcast’s bet on the UK is a sign of how Britain’s creative strength and talent pool are outweighing concerns about Brexit, which threatens to make it more difficult to move cast, crew and filming equipment into and from the EU.

“The UK is a great place to invest,” said Nigel Wilson, chief executive officer of British asset manager Legal and General Group, which is developing the site and financing the project. “Growing at twice the speed of the economy, our creative industries are a key component of Britain’s bright future.” – Bloomberg