Everything you need to know about Sky Arts


If you’re a Sky subscriber, it’s fair to say you’re not exactly short of entertainment options. For adult drama and hysterical comedies, Sky Atlantic is there. For family fun and great documentaries, Sky One is a terrific option. The list could go on, but there’s one channel which doesn’t often get the appreciation it should do. We speak, of course about Sky Arts.

Offering programming of a different ilk to the rest of Sky’s channels, Sky Arts stands apart from the remainder of Sky’s channels, but what makes the channel so special, how did it get started and what should you tune in to? In this article, we’re going to dig into channel and pull out all the best bits to save you time. Let’s get started!

Sky Arts – From Then Until Now

In its very earliest days, Sky Arts wasn’t what we know it to be. Launched in the 1st of January, 2000, as Artsworld it was owned and managed by a public partnership with figures such as Sir Jeremy Isaacs involved in its inception. However, the niche arts programming meant that the channel suffered severe financial difficulties.

Advertisers were hard to come by and in July 2002, it had grown so dire that they even staged a farewell party for the channel, only to find emergency funding that very evening. It was an incredible moment for the channel, but by the next year things had fallen apart once more.

In 2003 though, the channel would be rescued once more – this time by Sky, who took a 50% stake in the channel. By June 2005, Sky would expand that stake to 100%. Almost immediately they began stripping the staff of the channel down and dropping the channel’s premium subscription fee.

60 hours of classical music a week and seven full-length operas were broadcast to help attract new customers and on the 1st of March 2007, Artsworld became Sky Arts. It meant that for the first time, all of Sky’s wholly owned channels bore their name.

This began a new era for the channel, which quickly worked to redefine itself as the home of bold, innovative arts programming that appealed to more than just the classical music enjoying section of the nation.

The channel hosted a regular Friday Night Hijack where artists would come in and choose programming that reflected their style, interests and passions. Guests included DJ Don Letts, Anthony Horowitz, Malcolm McLaren, Germaine Greer and many more.

Recently, however, the channel has found new popularity with reality programming with an arts bend. Shows like Portrait Artist of the Year, Landscape Artist of the Year, Musician of the Year and Master of Photography have brought in new viewers. This last year has also seen Sky Arts 2 closed and merged with Sky Arts 1 with much programming moving to On Demand.

Who is Sky Arts for?

There’s a general unease around the ‘arts’ in many sections of society, and whilst Artsworld might have erred on the side of elitism, there’s nothing elite about Sky Arts. The last 5 years have seen the channel go from intriguing arts programming to broad entertainment with a bold outlook. Hilarious comedy programming, dedicated film analysis and wonderful reality TV have meant that it’s more fun than ever for anybody to tune in.

With that said, however, it’s clear that with a slightly intellectual bent, the channel might not suit family time viewing – though there’s no reason why you should turn it off should your kids be of a certain age. Put simply, it’s no BT Sport.

What should you be watching on Sky Arts?

So, with Sky Arts now occupying a huge role in Sky’s cultural output, what should you be tuning in to? Well, you’ve got some options there, and in this section we’ll be sharing with you what you should be watching right now, either live or on demand.

  • Landscape Artist of the Year 2016 – Following the success of Portrait Artist of the Year was always going to be difficult, but this years’ hunt for the best undiscovered portrait artist has proven that lightning can strike multiple times. Join Joan Bakewell and Frank Skinner plus judges as they attempt to find the next great landscape artist. We’re already deep into the series, but with On Demand, you can get up to speed quickly.
  • Discovering Film – Leading film critics discuss the lives and careers of Hollywood’s greatest actors in this compelling documentary series, which reaches into the past and illuminates new areas of cinema history. Watch live or on Catch Up now.
  • Soundbreaking – A wonderful Sky Arts documentary, Soundbreaking is an eight-part documentary series tracing the history of music recording, featuring exclusive interviews with some of the most celebrated recording artists, innovators and producers of all time. From the blues to metal, there’s something for everyone, either live or via On Demand.