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Comcast to double spending at Sky on European original programs

By Helen Coster
FILE PHOTO: The Comcast NBC logo is shown on a building in Los Angeles, California

By Helen Coster

(Reuters) - Comcast Corp will more than double its investment in European original programming and start an in-house studio at its European unit Sky after Sky's success with the mini-series "Chernobyl," the company said on Wednesday.

The U.S. cable and media conglomerate will invest about $1.27 billion (about 1 billion pounds) in Sky Studios programming over the next five years.

"Chernobyl," a dramatization of the 1986 Soviet nuclear disaster, was one of Sky’s most-watched original productions and a catalyst for the new investment, according to sources familiar with the company. The show, which aired on AT&T-owned HBO in the United States, stood out amid a flood of content available on Netflix and other streaming services to become part of the cultural zeitgeist.

Sky Studios will produce content for Comcast subsidiaries NBC and Universal Pictures as well as other distributors hungry for programming. It will focus on drama and comedy shot in English, Italian, German and other European languages, from low- to high-budget.

Philadelphia-based Comcast bought Sky in September, paying roughly $39 billion after outbidding 21st Century Fox in a months-long battle. In doing so, the U.S. telecom conglomerate expanded its reach into Europe and continued a move into content that accelerated with its 2011 acquisition of NBCUniversal.

News Corp Chairman Rupert Murdoch launched what was then Sky Television in 1989, building the company into a major European broadcaster over three decades.


(Reporting by Helen Coster; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)