Comcast’s pay television company in Germany, Sky Deutschland, will stop producing its own original series next year.
The announcement was made Thursday morning in a memo circulated by Sky Deutschland CEO Devesh Raj, in which he affirmed the company would no longer produce its own drama series and will instead rely on licensed content from 2024 onward.
The decision will not impact several shows that are currently in development, including the post-apocalyptic series “Helgoland 513” and the fourth season of “Das Boot.” Those shows will continue production as scheduled, and are expected to air on Sky channels in the future.
The news will come as a disappointment to fans of the critically-acclaimed show “Babylon Berlin,” which had been scheduled for a fifth season that was yet to go into production. As part of the shift toward licensed content, Sky has opted not to renew its agreement to carry the show.
Beta Film, the production company behind Babylon Berlin, said it was working with German public broadcaster ARD to enter production on a fifth season anyway, and that the show could ultimately move to free broadcast TV or a streaming service. Netflix distributes the show in several markets, including the United States and Canada, and could pick up the fifth season and acquire the back library of the program.
The decision to move away from scripted content comes as Comcast grapples with the effects of a downturn in the pay television market overseas, which has hammered its German subsidiary particularly hard. Comcast acquired Sky Deutschland in 2018 as part of its broader purchase of Sky Group, which included satellite television operations in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Austria, Switzerland and Italy.
Comcast has yet to see much of a return on its investment in Sky, and has been weighing the possibility of selling off some or all of its German-based business, according to reports. Canal Plus, a French media company owned by Vivendi, has expressed interest in purchasing Sky Deutschland from Comcast, which could go for as much as €1 billion (about $1 billion).
Comcast and Sky have seen increased competition from upstart streaming services in Europe, with lucrative pay television rights for top soccer, auto racing and other sports going to services like DAZN, Amazon Prime Video and similar services.
An acquisition by Canal Plus could help Sky Deutschland offset losing some sports rights to streaming services: Last year, Canal Plus gained the exclusive broadcast rights to UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League and UEFA Europa Conference League soccer matches in Austria, where Sky Deutschland provides satellite TV service.
The acquisition could also roll several Canal Plus media properties in Germany into a single portfolio. There, Canal Plus owns and operates Studio Canal as well as the IPTV and ISP company M7 Deutschland.