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Cecile Frot-Coutaz, CEO of Sky Studios, the scripted production arm of Comcast’s European giant Sky, has been busy.
The French industry leader has continued to expand her purview since taking over management of Sky Studios (Gangs of London, The Lazarus Project) in September 2021. In February, former CBS News president David Rhodes was named executive chairman of Sky News Group, reporting to the former Fremantle CEO and former head of YouTube in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. This fall, Sky Studios opened its new state-of-the-art production facility Sky Studios Elstree near London. And it has further expanded its original content slate and investment, with dramas scheduled for 2024 including The Tattooist of Auschwitz starring Harvey Keitel, Mary & George with Julianne Moore, and a series version of The Day of the Jackal led by Eddie Redmayne.
For THR‘s feature on the 35 Most Powerful Women in International Television, Frot-Coutaz answered questions about this year’s key challenges, such hot industry topics as AI, Sky Studios’ future slate, advice to young women in the industry and how she does to unwinds.
What was the biggest professional challenge you faced this past year?
A combination of structural and macroeconomic factors have made this year particularly difficult for our industry. One of the challenges we face is how we continue to support freelancers, writers and actors through the strikes and through the overall slowdown in commissioning globally. Fortunately, at Sky Studios we have always been focused and disciplined with our content investment and the key thing we can do to support the industry is to keep commissioning at the same levels as we have done before. I was also pleased to be asked to oversee Sky News Group which is now under the leadership of the brilliant David Rhodes and his team. There is an excellent team in place at Sky News and TG24 (in Italy) with exciting opportunities ahead!
What do you see as your biggest achievement of the past year?
Having been in the role for two years now, I am proud of our incredibly strong development pipeline and the projects we have coming up. With Meghan Lyvers now taking on all original series in the U.K. with a refocused strategy, plus Nils Hartmann continuing to lead our teams in Italy, we have a strong pipeline across Europe. It’s sometimes easy to forget the time it takes to develop, commission, and produce unmissable TV but I can’t wait for viewers to see the projects coming to their screens in 2024, 2025 and beyond.
And of course, a big achievement for Sky Studios this year was opening Sky Studios Elstree and welcoming our first productions onto the lot. It’s been four years in the making but it’s an exceptional facility, truly world-class.
From your international perspective, what impact have the dual Hollywood strikes already had on the business?
Given we work closely with European talent alongside U.S. talent and produce shows under local union rules in the U.K. and Italy, the dual strikes haven’t had as significant an impact for Sky Studios. The strikes have probably added to the recalibration effect we have seen globally in terms of overall spend on content, and the WGA settlement has allowed for greater transparency on streaming success which will likely have a ripple effect on other industries and internationally.
How do you view A.I.? As an opportunity or a threat?
Right now, I view it as a real opportunity. Generative AI is a tool to support the creative process, but will never replace the human creativity, judgment and experience that brilliant creatives and executives can bring to a project.
What advice would you give young women just entering the industry?
I’d probably say to be curious and remain curious. You may be entering the industry in a finance role, or in a production management role, or maybe in an editorial role — but be curious and take the time to learn about all the other different areas and disciplines in this brilliant industry. In TV, you quickly learn that making a hit show takes a village, and so the more you can immerse yourself and understand other people’s roles, the more success and value you can bring to your role. It also provides you with options, having squiggly careers these days is very common and can be rewarding.
What show, currently on air, would you love to have made?
There are so many that I love right now. I thought The Bear season 2 was exceptional, I also loved Hijack on Apple TV+, a great show to watch with my grown-up family on the edge of the sofa!
What do you do to unwind?
I am a baker, so I love to bake for my family. An apple tarte tatin is a firm fixture in my repertoire!
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