Comcast's Sky Halts All International Drama Productions Until 2021 – Could Others Follow Suit?

The Comcast-owned British TV broadcaster Sky has halted all drama productions filmed internationally until 2021. The pause comes amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which has shut down productions across the world indefinitely, but with the hopes of restarting sometime this year. However, with Sky setting a date for next year — impacting shows like the Mark Strong thriller Temple — this hammers in the wide-reaching effects of the pandemic.

Deadline reports that the European pay-TV broadcaster Sky, of which Comcast owns the majority stake, has decided to halt all productions on its dramas that shoot internationally until spring 2021. Sky's director of drama Cameron Roach announced the pause in a live Q&A on YouTube organized by the Edinburgh TV Festival. Roach revealed that productions are being looked at on a case-by-case basis, but that the company does not expect shows that shoot overseas or require travel to resume production for up to 12 months.

"What's been really important for all of us is to have something to aim for," Roach said. "The future is completely unknown, but that's hard for people to motivate themselves towards. By saying a mid-summer period of pre-production or heading into production, that means the writers' room, the prep teams can be focused on that."

"But what I have been clear about is the relative demands on each show. So anything with significant foreign shooting or a show that travels as it shoots, we are recommending it shoots in 2021," Roach added.

Inernational productions like the historical drama Britannia, which is heading into its third season, has been paused, and new shows like Kudos' You, an eight-part drama series based on the novel by Zoran Drvenkar that is unrelated to the Netflix drama. However, U.K. productions could get back on track sooner, Roach suggests, pointing to Mark Strong's Temple has an example of a series that is "manageable" because it is set-based.

The pandemic has shut down productions across the world, but many have been delayed indefinitely without a set date for filming to resume. However, as the pandemic wears on, it seems unlikely that sets could get back up and running per normal this year, and Sky's 2021 goal supports this likelihood.