Acquisitions Roundup: UKTV Slate – Dave Picks Up UK Rights To ‘Suits’ Season 3

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EXCLUSIVE: With pilot season and the LA Screenings now behind us, a myriad of UK broadcasters are deep in talks with the distribution arms of the big 6 studios in an attempt to lock down the exclusive UK rights to next season’s hit shows. And while, when these deals are reached, they are generally announced to much fanfare, there are also some quieter negotiations going on with these studios, ones that when concluded are rarely announced or given much fanfare. Those negotiations are for extensions to licensing deals or a given broadcaster exercising an option they held on new season(s) of a given show. Continuing our extensive acquisitions coverage, TVWise will be taking a look at each broadcaster (in a channel-by-channel breakdown) and exploring which shows will be coming back.

First up is UKTV and their Dave channel. The channel launched as Dave in 2007 (but has been around under various names dating back to 1998) at which time it was made available on Freeview and since then it has been making impressive gains in the ratings. The channel grew its audience share by 3% in 2012 and more recently it recorded its second most successful week in the channel’s history, averaging a 1.64% share in week 22, up some 45% (year-on-year) and year-to-date Dave has improved its audience share by 17% compared to the first 22 weeks of 2012.

Part of that success had been down to original commissions such as Red Dwarf X, but acquisitions have been equally important to the channel’s successes. While the channel is home to a large amount of acquired UK content (such as Mock The Week), arguably its most high profile acquisition has been the USA Network legal dramedy series Suits, and that acquisition isn’t going anywhere. I’ve confirmed that UKTV has picked up the exclusive first run UK broadcast rights to the third season of the USA Network’s series from NBCUniversal International Television Distribution for its Dave channel. I’m also told that the channel will be sticking to the same pattern as previous years and will be airing the show’s third season in early 2014, while it will launch state-side next month.

Created by Aaron Korsh, Suits follows Mike Ross, a college dropout with an eidetic memory who, before being kicked out of college for selling an exam paper, once dreamed of becoming an attorney. After Mike wonders into an office while evading the police, he impresses Harvey Specter who then proceeds to hires him as a less-than-legal associate for the law firm of Pearson Hardman. The drama series is produced by Universal Cable Productions and stars Gabriel Macht, Patrick J. Adams, Gina Torres, Rick Hoffman, Meghan Markle and Sarah Rafferty. The show’s 16 episode third season will see a shift in the dynamics and office politics at the firm. After merging with a top British firm, Harvey Specter is at odds with his boss and mentor, Jessica Pearson, and forces Mike to do something he never thought possible – betray Harvey. Meanwhile, things with Mike and Rachel get more complicated after Mike finally reveals his secret that he never actually went to Harvard – and they cross a line they can never walk back from.

Suits launched on USA Network in 2011 and was acquired by UKTV in a deal with NBCUniversal International Television Distribution in August 2011. The series then launched on Dave in January 2012 and across its first season averaged a consolidated audience of 0.65 million viewers, making it one of UKTV’s most successful U.S. acquisitions (with the most successful still being the unfortunately short-lived Alcatraz). “The numbers were huge”, one UKTV source tells me. And it was for that reason that ahead of the launch of the show’s second season UKTV extended its licensing deal with NBCUniversal International Television Distribution and picked up future seasons of the show under a multi-year contract. The show’s second season saw some slight dip in the ratings, but was still a big draw for Dave, averaging a consolidated audience of 0.45 million viewers, clearly justifying the decision to pick up the show’s third season.

Interestingly, the success that UKTV execs have seen with Suits on Dave has led to some very keen interest in securing more first run US content for the channel. Prior to the arrival of Suits (and more recently reality series Lizard Lick Towing), the general perception of Dave was that it was little more than a repeat channel for BBC programming, insiders have admitted. A perception that has been shifting thanks to the new push into original commissions and acquired content. To that end, UKTV executives headed to the LA Screenings last month intent on acquiring “the right show” for Dave, something which could sit alongside Suits on the schedule and word is that UKTV is also looking at acquiring US scripted comedy for the first time.