Sky Arts

Sky Arts (originally launched as Artsworld) is a British free-to-air television channel offering 24 hours a day of programmes dedicated to highbrow arts, including theatrical performances, films, documentaries and music (such as opera performances and classical and jazz sessions). The channel is available in the United Kingdom trough Freeview, Freesat, BT TV, Sky, Virgin Media, and TalkTalk TV and in the Republic of Ireland via Sky Ireland, Virgin Media Ireland, Vodafone Ireland and eir, included in most basic subscription packs, but started life as a premium service requiring an additional payment on top of the monthly Sky subscription.[1] The channel launched on Freeview and Freesat as a free-to-air service in September 2020.

Sky Arts
Logo used since 2020
Picture format1080i HDTV
(downscaled to 16:9 576i for the SDTV feed)
OwnerSky Group (Comcast)
Sister channelsBlaze
Crime & Investigation
Sky One (until 2021)
Sky Showcase
Sky Atlantic
Sky Cinema
Sky Comedy
Sky Crime
Sky Kids
Sky Documentaries
Sky History
Sky History 2
Sky Max
Sky Nature
Sky News
Sky Replay
Sky Sci-Fi
Sky Sports
Sky Sports Box Office
Sky Sports F1
Sky Sports News
Sky Sports Racing
Sky Witness
Launched1 January 2000 (2000-01-01)
17 September 2020 (2020-09-17) (free-to-air version)
8 April 2021 (2021-04-08) (Ireland)
Former namesArtsworld (2000–2007)
FreeviewChannel 11 (SD)
Streaming media
Sky GoWatch live (UK & Ireland only)
Now TVWatch live (UK and Ireland only)
Virgin TV AnywhereWatch live (UK only)


Artsworld (2000–07)

In its early days, it was owned and managed by a public partnership (Artsworld Channels) including Sir Jeremy Isaacs. However, the channel suffered severe financial difficulty. In July 2002, it even staged its own farewell party, only to find emergency funding that very evening. In 2003, with a skeleton staff, it was facing closure. At this point, Sky stepped in, taking an initial 50% stake.[2]

Sky subsequently bought out the remaining shareholders (including Isaacs) and in June 2005 took full control, reducing the staff further, and dropping the channel's premium subscription fee shortly afterwards.[3] 60 hours of classic music along with seven full-length operas were broadcast each month to help bring in potential new subscribers. John Cassy, the channel manager of Artsworld, said: "It is great news for the arts that a dedicated cultural channel will be available to millions of households."[2]

Sky Arts (2007–present)

On 1 March 2007, Artsworld became Sky Arts and Artsworld HD became Sky Arts HD.[4] This resulted in all of BSkyB's wholly owned channels carrying the Sky name (until Pick TV was launched and Virgin Media Television - which included Challenge - was acquired).

From 8 June 2007, Sky Arts introduced a series called Friday Night Hijack. Artists were invited to schedule a night of television that reflects their tastes, interests and passions. Guests included legendary punk DJ Don Letts, Don McCullin, Saffron Burrows, Anthony Horowitz, Malcolm McLaren, Phill Jupitus, Germaine Greer, George Melly and Reggie Perrin writer David Nobbs.

Picks included a Franz Ferdinand documentary entitled Rock it to Rio, a concert performance by Damon Albarn's new band The Good, the Bad & the Queen as well as documentaries and films on Salvador Dalí, Andy Warhol, Rachel Whiteread and Elvis Costello. This weekly feature was later moved and renamed Sunday Night Hijack. Between 2007 and 2012, Sky Arts collaborated with Seventh Art Productions to create Tim Marlow on.. and Marlow Meets... - two series in which broadcaster and arts historian Tim Marlow explored famous artists, major art exhibitions and key cultural figures.[5] Queen concerts and documentaries also air frequently on Sky Arts 1.

In 2013, Sky Arts launched a painting competition series Portrait Artist of the Year presented by Frank Skinner and Joan Bakewell. The series is judged by art experts Tai-Shan Schierenberg, Kathleen Soriano and Kate Bryan. Nick Lord won the first series and was awarded a commission to paint Hilary Mantel for the British Library.[6][7] In 2014 the second series was won by Christian Hook and his portrait of Alan Cumming is now part of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery collection.[8] In 2015 Sky Arts introduced a development of the competition for landscape painters called Landscape Artist of the Year in association with National Trust.[9] The first series was won by Nerine McIntyre and she was awarded a commission to paint the scene made famous by John Constable at Flatford.

On 9 June 2015, Sky Arts 2 closed and merged its content with Sky Arts 1 to form one channel.[10]

The free-to-air era

On 17 September 2020, Sky Arts launched on Freeview and Freesat as a free service.[11][12][13][14]

Since becoming a free-to-air service, the channel has picked up a number of acclaimed music documentaries such as King Rocker - A Film About Robert Lloyd and the Nightingales,[15][16][17][18][19] Poly Styrene: I Am a Cliché[20][21][22][23][24][25][26] and Blitzed: The 80s Blitz Kids' Story,[27] many of which were broadcast on Sky Arts a short while after premiering to the press.


Sky Arts

Sky Arts (formerly known as Artsworld and Sky Arts 1) focused on the more modern and independent side of Sky Arts' programming. Schedules included cutting-edge documentaries, cult films, and rock concerts. but since 9 June 2015 it has also featured the high brow programmes from the former Sky Arts 2.

Sky Arts 2

Sky Arts +1 began broadcasting on 18 August 2008, filling the Performance Channel's EPG slot (purchased by Sky) until the full launch of Sky Arts 2 on 20 October 2008. This channel focused on high brow programme and featured classical music, opera, dance, fine arts programming and reruns of Tales of the Unexpected.

From 30 March to 14 April 2013, Sky Arts 2 was temporarily rebranded as Sky Arts Rieu in honour of André Rieu, broadcasting back-to-back concerts by the violinist.[28]

On 9 June 2015, at 06:00 UTC+1 (05:00 UTC), Sky Arts 2 closed after showing its final classical music programme followed by promos for the new merged channel.

Sky Arts HD

Artsworld HD was one of the launch channels on Sky HD in 2006. It was a high-definition simulcast of Artsworld, and later Sky Arts, showing HD programmes when available, and upscaling standard-definition programmes.

Following the launch of Sky Arts 2, Sky Arts HD showed a mix of programmes in high definition from both channels – generally Sky Arts 1 all day on Mondays, Thursdays and Sundays and Sky Arts 2 until 7 pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, switching to Sky Arts 1 from 7 pm onwards on those days.

On 2 March 2009, Sky Arts HD was split into two channels. Sky Arts 1 HD then broadcast from 7 pm to 2 am daily, and Sky Arts 2 HD from 8 am to 7 pm. The standard definition channels continued to broadcast a full schedule from 8 am to 2 am. Sky Arts 1 HD also broadcast a further hour of HD-only programming called 'Aquariavision' intended to be recorded by Sky+ HD owners.

As of June 2009, both Sky Arts 1 and 2 HD broadcast full-time between 6 am and 2 am.

From 1 March 2010, all Sky Arts channels are broadcasting 24 hours a day.

An on and off-air brand refresh for all four channels (Sky Arts 1, Sky Arts 1 HD (a simulcast), Sky Arts 2 and Sky Arts 2 HD (a simulcast)) was launched on 16 August 2010.

On 9 June 2015, at 6 am, Sky Arts 2 HD closed down.

As of September 2020, Sky Arts is currently made up of the following channels: Sky Arts and Sky Arts HD (a simulcast).

Sky Arts Ireland

Sky launched an Irish standard definition feed of Sky Arts on 8 April 2021.[29][30] Sky Arts Ireland broadcasts the same content as the UK version but has adverts tailored to Ireland and is available in standard definition only as its high definition counterpart has UK-tailored adverts. The channel is registered with the broadcasting regulator in Luxembourg[31] with the Autorité Luxembourgeoise Indépendante de l'Audiovisuel (ALIA) (Independent Luxembourg Audiovisual Authority) making use of the classification system set by Ireland's BAI Code of Program Standards.

Previous life

Sky Arts
Picture format4:3 (576i SDTV)
OwnerBritish Sky Broadcasting
Launched2 December 1990 (1990-12-02)
Closed31 December 1992 (1992-12-31)[32]
Replaced bySky Soap
Sky Travel

Originally, Sky Arts was planned as a full channel on the Astra 1A satellite at the beginning of the Sky Television service back in 1989. Promotional material broadcast during the launch indicated the channel would appear later that year along with Disney Channel.[33] Neither channel launched at the time, Disney due to disputes with Sky, whilst arts programming (such as an early broadcast of the opera 'Carmen') was instead broadcast on Sky One.

Following the merger of British Satellite Broadcasting (BSB) and Sky Television plc to form British Sky Broadcasting in 1990,[34] BSkyB replaced the BSB lifestyle channel Now with Sky Television's news channel Sky News.[35] However, contracts were still in place for some shows intended for the Now channel to be shown by BSkyB. BSkyB solved this by occasionally opting out of the regular Sky News service during weekends on the Marcopolo satellite (which was owned by BSB prior to the merger and which carried Now) and showing the programmes as part of a weekend service entitled 'Sky Arts'.[36][37] The service was only seen by former BSB viewers, since Sky Arts did not interrupt Sky News on the existing Astra satellite service.

After all outstanding programmes had been broadcast, the full Sky News service was broadcast on both Marcopolo and Astra and Sky Arts ceased to broadcast.

Logo history


  1. "Your sofa - the best seat in the house". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 April 2018.
  2. Gibson, Owen (20 June 2005). "Sky buys out arts channel". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 September 2013.
  3. Shelley, Darren (20 June 2005). "Artsworld to drop subscription charge". Digital Spy.
  4. "Artsworld to rebrand at Sky Arts". 5 February 2007.
  5. "Tim Marlow Meets". Sky. Retrieved 20 April 2020.
  6. "Hilary Mantel's new portrait sets precedent - BBC News". BBC News. 11 February 2014. Retrieved 15 March 2016.
  7. "Hilary Mantel portrait a living first for the British Library". Archived from the original on 12 January 2022. Retrieved 15 March 2016.
  8. Ellis-Petersen, Hannah (30 December 2014). "Alan Cumming portrait unveiled at Scottish gallery". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 15 March 2016.
  9. "Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year". National Trust. Retrieved 15 March 2016.
  10. Finbow, Katy (29 April 2015). "Sky is closing one of its Arts channels to make a single "super channel"". Digital Spy. Retrieved 8 May 2015.
  11. "With the BBC at bay, Sky embraces the possibilities of the arts on TV". the Guardian. 28 July 2020. Retrieved 24 August 2020.
  12. "Sky Arts confirms Freeview launch". RXTV info. 28 July 2020. Retrieved 24 August 2020.
  13. "Press Pack: Sky Arts Available to Everyone from 17 September". Sky Group Newsroom. 24 August 2020. Retrieved 24 August 2020.
  14. "Sky Arts goes free to air from September 2020". British Theatre. 28 July 2020. Retrieved 26 September 2020.
  15. "Home".
  16. "Review: King Rocker (2020) : Stewart Lee - 41st Best Standup Ever!".
  17. "King Rocker".
  18. "This week's home entertainment: From King Rocker to Deliver Us". 5 February 2021.
  19. "TV tonight: The story of Brummie punk Robert Lloyd". 6 February 2021.
  20. "Poly Styrene: I Am a Cliché".
  21. "Poly Styrene: I Am a Cliché by Bell and SNG - film review". 9 March 2021.
  22. "Poly Styrene: I Am a Cliché reckons with the woman behind the icon | Gigwise".
  23. "Poly Styrene: I Am a Cliché review – riveting take on British punk heroine". 5 March 2021.
  24. "Poly Styrene: I Am a Cliché (12A) | Barbican".
  25. "Poly Styrene - I Am a Cliche".
  26. "Poly Styrene - I Am a Cliche".
  27. "Blitzed: The 80s Blitz Kids' Story".
  28. "Sky Arts 2 Celebrates Andre Rieu". Sky Arts. 10 March 2013.
  29. "Changes to the Sky TV guide - April 2021". April 2021.
  30. "Sky Arts".
  32. "TV History". UK Free TV. Retrieved 17 August 2007.
  33. Sky TV Launch (1989). And still to come in 1989 Sky Arts plus the ultimate in family entertainment introducing The Disney Channel
  34. Sweney, Mark (12 November 2014). "BSkyB to be rebranded as Sky after takeover of European sister companies". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 4 February 2016.
  35. "James Murdoch To Replace Nicholas Ferguson As Sky Chairman". International Business Times. 29 January 2016. Retrieved 4 February 2016.
  36. Chris Wathan The BSB/Sky Merger Archived 21 November 2009 at the Wayback Machine Analogue/Sat
  37. About BSkyB – Murdoch on Astra...versus BSB on Marco Polo Irish Cable & Digital Guide
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