Sky will make its Arts channel free-to-air in the UK, the operator has announced.
Starting from September, Sky Arts will launch on free-to-air terrestrial platform Freeview. Comcast-owned Sky said that this reflects “its mission to increase access to and drive participation in the arts, at a vital time for the cultural sector.”
The channel broadcasts a wide range of programming which focuses on theatre, art, poetry and music. This includes popular series such as Portrait Artist of The Year, Landscape Artist of The Year, Tate Britain’s Great Art Walks, Treasures of the British Library, The South Bank Show and Urban Myths.
The broadcaster added that while Sky Arts will be added to Freeview, its on-demand content will not be following suit to the Freeview Play OTT platform. Instead, the Sky Arts on demand library of more than 2,000 hours of content will remain exclusive to Sky and Now TV.
Stephen van Rooyen, EVP and CEO, Sky UK and Europe, said: “As a creative business, we believe it’s important to have a thriving cultural sector. By making Sky Arts free for everyone we want to give more artists and arts organisations a platform to create and share their work and to bring more art and culture to everyone across the UK.”
Philip Edgar-Jones, Director of Sky Arts, said: “There’s never been a stronger need or demand for the arts, nor a more important time to champion and celebrate creativity. That’s why we’re throwing open the doors to make Sky Arts a free channel. During lockdown we’ve seen audiences to the channel increase by 50% and our weekly live paint-along show, Portrait Artist of The Week, reached 4.6 million people with over 20,000 portraits painted.
“As a free to air channel I hope that Sky Arts can help arts organisations and cultural institutions of all shapes and sizes across the UK, providing them with a platform to create and showcase their work to a broad audience. With our renewed focus and mission to increase accessibility and participation across the arts, we want to hear from everyone with ideas for how we might be able to work together – we can only succeed with artists and creatives at the heart of what we do.”
Complementing this announcement comes the launch of a series of bursaries which Sky says are worth £30,000 each. These will see “leading figures from the arts support and mentor diverse and emerging new artists.”