British productions - both drama and comedy – have been on the rise in recent years. Some of the bigger broadcasters – notably BBC’s One and Two and ITV – have focused their teams and their budgets almost exclusively on home grown programming and turned away from acquisitions. Even smaller broadcasters such as Gold and Dave (part of the UKTV network) have been ramping up on commissions, but unlike the BBC and ITV, UKTV is still a fairly prolific player in the US acquisitions business. Even so, ITV isn’t completely shunning the US market. Earlier this week, the commercial broadcaster closed a deal with Twentieth Century Fox to acquire the first (and prospective second) season of FX’s spy drama series The Americans, which kicks off state-side tonight. The BBC hasn’t been completely absent either, with BBC Three being the home to two first run US programmes (FX’s Wilfred and Fox’s Family Guy) and BBC Four having recently picked up the rights to NBC’s Parks and Recreation. But how have new broadcast shows from the 2012-2013 seasons fared amongst UK broadcasters?
Of the 39 new shows ordered by the five broadcast networks in the US (ABC, CBS, The CW, Fox and NBC) only 37 were up for grabs (Dracula is a co-production with BSkyB‘s Sky Living and I hear that the abrupt cancellation of Next Caller means it won’t and hasn’t been floated to international buyers). Of those 37 shows only 15 have landed with UK broadcasters as of this writing. That accounts for 41% of new shows and is steady in percentage terms and down only slightly from the total amount of new broadcast shows acquired this time last year. (By Jan 31st 2012 UK broadcasters had acquired 18 of 43 new broadcast shows, accounting for 41%. By the time of this writing, of the 43 new shows that comprised the 2011 – 2012 season, 30 of 43 had been acquired by UK broadcasters, accounting for a sell through rate of 70%).
Perhaps unsurprisingly, BSkyB leads the pack amongst the UK broadcasters who have purchased new shows from this season. The broadcaster has purchased seven new shows (Revolution, Last Resort, The Following, Elementary, Chicago Fire, Vegas and Arrow) or almost 47% of completed sales thus far. ITV and Channel 4 came in second place having acquired 3 shows (Animal Practice, 666 Park Avenue and Ben and Kate for ITV; The New Normal, Nashville and The Mindy Project for Channel 4) or 20% apiece. UKTV followed just behind, having acquired 2 shows (Do No Harm and Beauty and the Beast) from the 2012-2013 season, which accounts for 13% of completed sales. On the distributor side of things Warner Bros International Televisions Distribution (WBITD) and NBCUniversal International Television Distribution have racked up 4 sales a piece, CBS Studios International follows just behind with 3, Twentieth Century Fox Television Distribution has sold 2 and Lionsgate and Sony Pictures Television have both sold only one. Surprisingly, Disney Media Distribution has yet to make a sale for their slate of new shows which includes Mistresses, The Neighbors, Malibu Country, Red Widow and Zero Hour.
As expected the series that had the most buzz have already landed UK sales. Some took longer to wrap up and announce due to heavy bidding by multiple broadcasters. A good example is NBC’s Revolution. The series hails from JJ Abrams and was received well at the LA Screenings. I hear that bidding on the series started almost immediately with several UK broadcaster going after the series. It took several months to hammer out a deal because of that and resulted in BSkyB taking the first 3 seasons of the show from WBITD in December. Another show that was subject to heavy bidding was CBS Studios International’s Beauty and the Beast. That series eventually landed at UKTV’s Watch channel, who bought the series with a multi-season commitment (I hear that the deal, as it stands, is for 3 seasons).
Other shows which have been well received state-side (by viewers, if not critics) have been less sought after, but still landed UK broadcasters. The New Normal fits into that category. The comedy series about a gay couple landed at E4 in the UK. That said, UK broadcasters aren’t done with this crop of shows and I hear from sources that Disney are close to making two sales. One on the comedy side and one of the drama side of their slate. Word is that the two shows in question are ABC’s The Neighbors and Zero Hour. I don’t have a clear read on the broadcasters but I’ve been hearing speculation of late that one will be going to Channel 4 and the other to UKTV. Other studios are still expecting further sales especially as Channel 5, Syfy and Universal Channel have yet to acquire any new shows from this season.
Looking beyond the current seasons new shows, I’d be remiss if I didn’t highlight UKTV’s acquisitions. Looking at total number of first run US programmes, UKTV ranks third behind only BSkyB and Channel 4. The network – across its 10 channels – is home to first run episodes of Rizzoli & Isles, The Glades, Body of Proof, Castle, Hart of Dixie, Grimm and recently acquired the US version of Being Human. The network has also picked up shows that have been overlooked by other broadcasters such as The Protector and Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior. What’s more, I hear that they are not done with acquisitions and may be adding a number of new series later this year. Another broadcaster worthy of a final mention is Netflix. The streaming service, still young here in the UK, has picked up several shows that have been overlooked including Sony’s Breaking Bad and Fox’s The League. The streaming service has had a fair amount of success with this approach and I hear they are considering picking up both Army Wives and Private Practice from Disney (both shows were dropped by Sky Living last year).