Seven months on from my half-time report on scripted acquisitions hitting the UK from the five US broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, The CW, Fox and NBC) for the 2012 – 2013 season and there has been some movement. But not a whole hell of a lot. From an overview, sales were slightly depressed this past season with just over half (56%) of the new scripted series hitting the UK – that’s stacked up against a sell through rate of 70% for the scripted shows that comprised the 2011-2012 season. This despite having less new shows this past season compared to 2011-2012 (39 for the 2012-2013 season vs 43 for 2011-2012 season). There is no single reason for what one studio source called “lacklustre” sales, with sources pegging it down to a mix of 1) the rise of UK broadcasters (most notably BSkyB and UKTV) preferring to focus more of their budgets on original commissions; 2) what one acquisitions executive at a major broadcaster described as an overall “weak” slate of new series; and 3) a high volume of returning US series leading to less demand for new entries.
To put it all into perspective; of the 39 new scripted series that were ordered by ABC, CBS, The CW, Fox and NBC only 36 were made available to UK buyers (NBC’s Dracula is a co-production with BSkyB’s Sky Living, while Next Caller and Friend Me were not shopped to international buyers due to the quick cancellation of the former and the tragic situation with the latter). Of those 36, only 20 landed UK sales (compared to last year’s 30 of 43 being snapped up by UK buyers), which, as noted above, accounts for a sell through rate of 56%. That is only an increase of 5 series (but 6 sales – CBSSI scored 2 UK sales for Emily Owens, M.D., with LOVEFiLM taking first window rights and UKTV’s Really channel nabbing free-to-air) and 15% from the 15/41% in our previous report from January 2013.
So who did the most business? On the broadcaster side of things, BSkyB – well known for being a fairly prolific buyer of US content – led the pack having acquired 9 series (Arrow, Last Resort and Revolution for Sky1; The Following and Vegas for Sky Atlantic; and Chicago Fire, Elementary, Hannibal and The Mob Doctor for Sky Living), accounting for 45% of new sales for the season. ITV and Channel 4 came in second place having acquired 3 new shows (Animal Practice, 666 Park Avenue and Ben and Kate for ITV2; The New Normal and The Mindy Project for E4; and Nashville for More4), representing 15% apiece of completed sales. UKTV followed in third place, having acquired the first run rights to two new series and the free-to-air rights to a third (those shows were: Beauty And The Beast & Do No Harm for Watch and Emily Owens, M.D. for Really), which accounted for 10% of completed sales. In joint fourth place is Channel 5, the recently launched TLC UK and OTT service LOVEFiLM, after acquiring only one series each (Under The Dome for Channel 5, Mistresses for TLC UK and Emily Owens, M.D. for LOVEFiLM), accounting for 5% of completed sales, apiece.
On the distributor side, CBS Studios International had a banner year, selling every single (available) title on their slate (Beauty And The Beast, Elementary, Emily Owens, M.D., Under The Dome and Vegas), and managing to sell Emily Owens, M.D. to two different UK broadcasters in the space of only a few months. Only one, Friend Me, wasn’t sold into the UK as it was unavailable on the international market after the series was deep-sixed by CBS state-side. No other major studio can claim such a successful sell through rate in the UK for the 2012-2013 season. Following behind CBSSI was: Warner Bros. International Television Distribution and NBCUniversal International Television Distribution with 4 sales apiece & Twentieth Century Fox Television Distribution and Sony Pictures Television with 2 sales each. Lionsgate TV and the recently launched Gaumont International Television had a good year, with both selling their new major productions (Nashville and Hannibal, respectively). It was a pretty poor year for Disney, however. The studio’s distribution arm (Disney Media Distribution) was shopping a total of 6 new series from the 2012-2013 season (Family Tools, Malibu Country, Mistresses, The Neighbors, Red Widow and Zero Hour) and but for TLC UK’s acquisition of Mistresses, it seems likely that they would have had zero sales.
On the whole, the series that scored UK sales this past season fell into one of two categories: 1) they emerged with strong buzz out of the 2012 LA Screenings or 2) they came from an established producer whose name was enough to drive interest. Arrow, Elementary, Revolution and Nashville are good examples of the former; while Hannibal and The New Normal fitted into the latter. By and large, UK buyers went for procedurals with the likes of Arrow, Elementary and Chicago Fire, but comedy was once again a key genre with ITV2 taking 2 new comedy series and Channel 4 being attracted to the “distinctiveness” of The Mindy Project; which Channel 4 insiders say was considered to be the perfect companion piece for New Girl. Serialised dramas had a tougher time this year with only The Following, Last Resort, Revolution and the quickly cancelled Do No Harm landing UK sales.
There seems to be a consensus amongst my sources that – as was hinted at by what was described at the time as a “disappointing slate” of new series at the 2012 LA Screenings – the past season suffered from few standout hits, leading to hesitation on the part of buyers; something readily apparent when one looks at the sales figures. Although, a contact at Twentieth Century Fox Television Distribution stated, rather emphatically, that they weren’t done yet and were close to securing a sale for one of the studios new entries from the 2012-2013 season. That contact refused to elaborate on the series or buyer in question, despite my best efforts. But looking forward, there seems to be the hope, if not the assumption, that the 2013-2014 season, which unlike this past season has a number of standouts, will yield greater sales for the big six studios. Already Warner Bros. International Television Distribution has come out the gate swinging, securing sales for 4 of the 10 new shows they’re shopping for the upcoming season (and I’ve heard rumblings that deals are underway with UK broadcasters for both Almost Human and Super Fun Night); while Disney Media Distribution and Sony Pictures Television have both secured sales for their hottest new dramas, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and The Blacklist, respectively.