Sky ‘committed' to major new Elstree studio despite pandemic

Zai Bennett spoke during an online session held by the Edinburgh TV Festival.

The managing director of content for Sky UK has said the company remains “committed” to building its major new TV and film studio in Elstree, despite the coronavirus pandemic.

The 32-acre Sky Studios Elstree in north London will be close to the famous Elstree Studios, and will house 14 stages and cutting-edge technology.

Zai Bennett said the development, which is due to open in 2022, was “still ongoing”.

Sky Studios Elstree
Sky Studios Elstree is due to open in 2022 (Sky)

He spoke during an online session held by the Edinburgh TV Festival as part of its The Controller series.

Mr Bennett said: “That is still ongoing. The development is ongoing at Elstree. We are committed to doing that and that is progressing, and Sky Studios is continuing to grow.

“We announced some deals last week with Lighthouse and other people. There is a whole range of the ways Sky Studios can be.”

He added: “From full-scale production of something like The Third Day, which Cameron and his team have run, to the deals with people like Lighthouse.

“There’s the whole gamut that we will be doing.”

Riviera Season Two Premiere – London
Zai Bennett has ambitious plans for the new site (Ian West/PA)

The studio, built with the backing of Sky’s new owner Comcast and in partnership with sister company NBCUniversal, will be able to facilitate the production of several films and TV shows simultaneously.

Head of comedy, Jon Mountague, said the broadcaster was not looking to commission a flagship comedy about the coronavirus crisis.

Asked about the impact of the outbreak on commissioning choices in comedy, he said: “We always try and be tasteful and sensitive.

“I don’t think it has a massive impact. Comedy is, of course, about joy. It’s about laughter. It’s about making audiences laugh…our slate reflects a wide range of styles and tastes and tones.

“Specifically on Covid, we are not really looking for a show that’s going to be about Covid or that’s going to make political comments around it.

“In many ways it’s business as usual for us. We want to keep making our audiences laugh.”

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