Sky plans to build a major new studio in the U.K., as the global streaming war forces media companies to secure more space for upcoming productions.
Comcast Corp.’s European pay-TV business 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 the independent Elstree Studios in Hertfordshire, a film hub that’s been active since before the First World War, where productions including Netflix Inc.’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 Inc. and Walt Disney Co. 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.”
Comcast’s streaming rivals have also recently locked down space in the U.K. 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 pounds ($1.29 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 U.K. 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 U.K. is a great place to invest,” said Nigel Wilson, chief executive officer of British asset manager Legal & General Group Plc, 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.”
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