Acquisitions Roundup: UKTV Slate – Really Picks Up UK Rights To ‘Covert Affairs’ Season 4

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EXCLUSIVE: Despite a turndown in sales this past year, scripted acquisitions from the United States are still big business. The last 12 months saw some new players enter the fray such as the Discovery owned TLC and OTT services Netflix and LOVEFiLM, who are ramping up their offerings of exclusive first run content. And while all eyes are on the glossy new series that have been ordered for the 2013-2014 season and which UK broadcasters they will land with, TVWise continues its extensive acquisitions coverage with our broadcaster-by-broadcaster breakdown of which current shows will be coming back later this year or early next.

In this third run down (following our coverage of the slate of first run acquisitions on TCM and Dave), we turn our attention to Really. The female skewing channel owned and operated by UKTV launched in 2009 and is available on Sky, Freeview and Virgin Media. Since its launch, (as with most of UKTV’s channels in recent years) Really has been making impressive gains in the ratings, so much so that it led to UKTV becoming the fastest growing commercial network in 2012. Really also had a bumper year in 2012. The channel grew its audience share by some 168% and is now viewed by a total of 10.6 million adults every month.

As with a lot of digi-channels, acquisitions have been key to Really’s performance; especially as UKTV’s ramp up of original commissions has yet to spread to the channel. Really is home to a number of acquired series from all around the world but has only two exclusive first run series from the United States: The CW’s Hart of Dixie and USA Network’s Covert Affairs. Both of those shows were key to the ratings gains that Really made in 2012, with the two ranking as the channel’s strongest performing shows. The second season of Hart of Dixie (the higher rating of the two) is currently airing on the channel and I’ve now confirmed that UKTV has picked up the rights to the fourth season of USA Network’s spy drama series Covert Affairs. I’m told that the series, which kicks off its fourth season state-side on July 16th, is currently slated for an Autumn premiere.

Created by Matt Corman and Chris Ord, Covert Affairs follows Annie Walker, a recent CIA recruit who is assigned to work in the agency’s Domestic Protection Division under Joan Campbell, the wife of the Director of the National Clandestine Service. Annie is assisted in her duties by her colleague and love interest Auggie Anderson, a blind CIA analyst. Produced by Universal Cable Productions, the drama series stars Piper Perabo, Christopher Gorman, Karrie Matchett, Anne Dudek and Peter Gallagher. The show’s fourth season kicks off after Annie and her longtime best friend and blind CIA tech-op, Auggie finally acknowledging their romantic feelings for one another. Things get complicated at the agency, as Annie aligns with Henry Wilcox in a dangerous, undercover mission that has potentially scandalous consequences for the CIA. Joining the cast this season is Hill Harper (CSI: NY) who will play Calder Michaels, an ambitious CIA station chief based in Latin America.

Covert Affairs launched in the United States in July 2010 and was acquired by UKTV in a deal with NBCUniversal International Television Distribution almost a year later in August 2011, which also saw the company acquire Suits for Dave and Grimm for Watch. The CIA drama series launched on Really in November 2011 and across its first season it averaged a consolidated audience of around 0.25 million viewers, making it the channel’s highest rated scripted series (a crown which was snatched over a year later by The CW’s Hart Of Dixie, which across its first season averaged a consolidated audience of over 0.4 million viewers). The ratings performance of the series was just what UKTV execs had wanted and expected when they acquired the series. “It certainly justified our decision to pursue more exclusive content”, one insider admits. The show’s second season, which launched on Really in January 2012, saw a slight dip in ratings; attracting a consolidated audience of 0.21 million viewers. The show’s third season, however, bounced back and attracted a consolidated audience of 0.23 million viewers, lifting the slot average by some 169%. With such impressive ratings, the future of Covert Affairs on Really had never been in any doubt and made the pick up of season 4 a foregone conclusion.

The success that both Hart of Dixie and Covert Affairs have brought to the channel has led to renewed interest in finding (at least) one more exclusive series for the channel. The acquisitions strategy for Really, especially on the scripted side, has been to find unique series with strong female leads. Of the crop of new shows offered at this years LA Screenings, there were certainly more than a few that fit that description. It remains to be seen if any of those such shows (Killer Women and Betrayal, for example) have attracted the attention of the UKTV acquisitions team.