This summer, Sky will launch a major initiative to bring the best of the arts to its 21 million customers across Italy, Germany, Austria, Ireland and the UK. The broad commitment by the company, Europe’s biggest investor in television, is one of the first major international content initiatives since the creation of the new Sky in November 2014. It signals the production of even more top-quality arts programming, the launch of a comprehensive new on demand service and the extension of Sky Arts to entirely new international audiences.

The new initiative will be anchored by the launch of the Sky Arts Production Hub, a commissioning and production centre of excellence based in Milan, dedicated to creating arts programming for Sky customers across Europe. Italy was chosen because of its worldwide reputation for creativity, production quality and talent, making it the ideal place to produce the kind of arts programming that will appeal across different markets. The Sky Arts Production Hub will contribute to the growth of both the Italian and European culture industry.

The Sky Arts Production Hub will focus on producing pan-European events that will unite international audiences in a unique celebration of the arts. The Hub will also produce a wide slate of outstanding arts programming for customers across all Sky territories in addition to content commissioned locally.

As its inaugural pan-European arts event, Sky will launch Sky Arts Photographer of the Year in 2016. Opening for entries later this year, the competition will bid to find the best amateur photographer in Europe, spanning all forms of the medium. It will be judged by a jury comprised of some of the leading lights from the world of photography , and will offer the biggest prize of any photography competition in Europe.

Alongside this, Sky Arts in the UK and Ireland will undergo a major re-launch, offering customers the most comprehensive on demand catalogue of arts programming with over 1,000 hours of content available at launch including programmes commissioned and acquired exclusively for on demand viewing. In addition, the Sky Arts 1 and Sky Arts 2 channels will a merge to create a single superchannel, offering the best of all genres of the arts, with a 10 percent increase in its programming investment. The new Sky Arts will launch on 9 June with greater prominence on the digital channel guide.

Already launched as Sky Arte in Italy at the end of 2012, Sky Arts will also be coming to Germany and Austria to bring the best of the arts to an even wider audience.

The arts initiative is one of the first major projects to come out of the newly-enlarged Sky group and demonstrates the opportunity to launch new services to more customers. By bringing the three Sky businesses together, Sky is sharing their strengths and expertise to extend its lead in content and accelerate innovation across all the markets in which it operates.

Jeremy Darroch, Group Chief Executive, Sky said: “Bringing the three Sky businesses together has opened up the opportunity to create new and exciting content on a greater scale. As an international company, we can raise our ambition and make a bigger impact for millions of customers across Europe.

Today’s announcement represents a major new commitment which will bring customers high-quality and distinctive content covering the full breadth of the arts. It builds on Sky’s position as Europe’s leading entertainment company and underlines our ambition to invest at scale in even more of our own original content.”