ITV is preparing to launch a pay TV service called ITV Encore on Sky this summer, dedicated to the broadcaster's most recent British dramas and with a multimillion pound budget for new commissions.
ITV Encore will be the broadcaster's first pay TV channel in eight years and will be made available on Sky's satellite platform and its internet services Now TV, Sky+HD, Sky Go and Sky Store. The launch is the result of a new four year partnership between ITV and Sky.
Dramas to be included on ITV Encore include 'Vera' and 'Lucan'. The channel's remit is to air its most recent and successful drama series, with appearances from 'Broadchurch' and 'Downton Abbey' in its first year highly likely, although the schedule is still being finalised by ITV's director of television, Peter Fincham.
From 2015, ITV Encore will also screen original commissions, with the promise of "high quality production values, big name lead actors and compelling narratives penned by some of the UK’s best writers".
The broadcaster has confirmed its existing channel dedicated to drama, ITV3, will not be closed, but will be refocused around airing older dramas from ITV, described as "the classics".
Adam Crozier, chief executive of ITV, said: "A key part of our strategy is to become the most watched, most loved and most talked about family of free and pay channels for every household and every advertiser in the UK.
"ITV’s brilliant dramas contributed to a fantastic on-screen performance last year. We had three out of the top five dramas in 2013, which helped us increase our share of viewing on the main channel for the first time in a decade.
"The time is absolutely right to build on our successful partnership with Sky with the launch of ITV Encore, which will be an important part of ITV’s family of channels, and will complement ITV3, home to our long-running, classic drama series.
"ITV Encore is right in line with our strategy of growing non advertising revenues while at the same time creating even greater opportunities to showcase new drama."
Initial reaction from media traders about ITV Encore has been positive. Dominic Williams, trading director at Aegis Media, said: "ITV Encore fits in with the broadcaster's stated ambition to further explore the pay TV space and promises to provide more opportunities for us to speak to our clients [advertisers] about. It shows, yet again, just how exciting the TV arena still is; new opportunities are opening up all the time."
Jeremy Darroch, chief executive of Sky, said he was "delighted" with the ITV partnership, and the ability to bring Sky subscribers exclusive access to a new channel "from one of the best loved brands in TV".
He added: "The wider availability of ITV programmes on our fast-growing connected TV services, including Sky Go, Sky Store and NOW TV, will make Sky stand out as a great place to enjoy ITV, on multiple devices, both at home and on the go.
"This is good news for Sky customers and a positive way for us to work with ITV in a broad, mutually beneficial partnership."
ITV, the UK's largest commercial broadcaster, last launched a dedicated brand pay TV channel with its commercial children’s channel CiTV on Freeview in 2006. It also trialled its high definition subscription service ITV HD in June 2006, which fully launched in 2008.
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