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Sky to launch second arts channel


Vanessa Mae: will host the Classical Top Ten show on Sky Arts 2. Photograph: Rex Features

Sky is to double its output of arts content with the launch of a channel featuring classical music and opera.

Sky Arts 2, which will also include shows on fine arts and dance performances, will sit alongside the current Sky Arts channel, which will be refocused on more contemporary and cult programming such as live rock concerts and documentaries.

A separate Sky Arts HD channel, which already broadcasts content from the main Sky Arts outlet, will air high definition content from the new service.

Sky described the channel, which is due to launch on October 20, as a "significant increase" in its commitment to the arts, saying the three outlets will broadcast a total of 36 hours of arts content a day.

The managing director of Sky entertainment, Sophie Turner Laing, said: "Arts is integral to the Sky platform and we now have the wealth and breadth of diverse arts content to warrant two dedicated arts channels.

"At a time when other broadcasters' commitment to the arts is open to question, we firmly believe in giving our customers the best choice, all delivered in the highest possible quality, HD.

"This is further evidence of our commitment to invest in the content that people love and demonstrates how pay-TV can meet viewers' individual needs."

A Sky spokeswoman added: "These changes mean that Sky Arts will be investing in more content, including more exclusive commissions and sought-after acquisitions."

New arts shows for the autumn for Sky Arts 1 - as the current Sky Arts channel will be rebranded - will include Suggs' Italian Job, featuring the Madness frontman's tour of Italy; Arts Rocks, uncovering the "hidden artistic talents" of Iggy Pop, Moby, George Clinton and Dave Stewart; and Tim Marlow on Francis Bacon. Mariella Frostrup's The Book Show will also return.

Sky Arts 1 will also introduce a number of new nightly strands, including live music show Centre Stage and documentary series Backstory.

On Sky Arts 2, new shows will include HD Metropolitan Operas with performances including Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth; Vanessa-Mae's Classical Top Ten, featuring classical music performances chosen by Sky Arts viewers; and four-part series The Forgotten Painter - Edward Seago, in which Selina Scott will look at the life and work of the late British painter.

BSkyB bought a 50% stake in Artsworld, the former name of Sky Arts, in 2003 and the remaining shares in June 2005, making the former subscription channel available for the first time as part of its lifestyle and culture mix to monthly subscribers.

The channel was rebranded as Sky Arts in March 2007.

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