The 2014-2015 broadcast season has had its share of success stories and failures. From eagerly anticipated comic book entries Gotham, The Flash and Marvel’s Agent Carter, the huge success of more diverse shows such as Empire, Fresh Off The Boat and Black-ish to the underperforming (and quickly cancelled) crop of shows such as Selfie and The McCarthys.
But have those success stories crossed the pond? At well past the hallway point, and as the next LA Screenings is firmly on the horizon, TVWise breaks down the season so far and takes a look at how many shows have made it to the UK, what the key trends are, and who is doing the most business – on both the broadcaster and distributor side of the equation.
This past season saw some 46 shows hit the marketplace (after four shows were either cancelled or pulled). That is down somewhat from the 54 shows that were shopped by the six major studios (and a few independent distributors) during the 2013-2014 season. Of this season’s 46 shows, only 17 have landed with UK broadcasters thus far, accounting for a sell through rate of 37%
So just who has done the most business this season?
As is so often the case, Warner Bros International Television Distribution leads the pack on the studio side of things, having secured sales for six of the ten series they were shopping this season. In close second is CBS Studios International, lining up deals for five of the eight series they were distributing internationally. Both studios benefited from having the strongest slates this year, with WB’s being headlined by the likes of The Flash and Stalker, while CBSSI quickly racked up international deals for Madam Secretary and Scorpion.
Every other studio is trailing behind both CBS and WBITD, quite significantly. ABC Studios’ international sales arm Disney Media Distribution, NBCUniversal International Television Distribution, Twentieth Century Fox International Television Distribution and Sony Pictures Television have each only lined up one UK deal apiece (though it’s worth noting that Sony had a particularly small slate with only two broadcast series).
The independent studios and distributors have also had a hard time this season. MGM has yet to spark any interest in Mark Burnett’s The Bible follow up AD: The Bible Continues; the same is true for ITV Studios Global Entertainment who are currently shopping the David Duchovny fronted Aquarius. But on the flipside of that, Endemol Shine International quickly lined up a deal with ITV for Broadchurch remake Gracepoint.
On the broadcaster side of the equation, Sky and Channel 5 have been the most active buyers of new content out of the screenings, with both having acquired four series (The Flash, Forever, Madam Secretary and Stalker for Sky; and Gotham, The Mysteries Of Laura, NCIS: New Orleans and CSI: Cyber for Channel 5), accounting for 24% of completed sales apiece.
Channel 4 was close behind having acquired three series this year (Jane The Virgin, Marry Me and Empire for their youth skewing E4), representing 17% of completed sales. Following just behind was ITV who snapped up two series (Gracepoint for ITV Encore and Scorpion for ITV2), accounting for 11% of completed sales. Amazon, Universal Channel and the BBC each picked up one series (Constantine for Amazon; How To Get Away With Murder for Universal Channel; and American Odyssey for BBC Two), accounting for 6% of completed sales apiece. In something of a reversal from last season when they were the most active buyer, UKTV has not picked up any new series out of the LA Screenings.
UK buyers went drama heavy this season, with only two comedies (Jane The Virgin and Marry Me) having been picked up on this side of the pond. The dramas that were quickly snapped up tended to be the most buzzed about ones, such as How To Get Away With Murder, CSI: Cyber and NCIS: New Orleans. Fox’s event series Wayward Pines was the first to get a UK deal, thanks to a wider pick on the part of FOX UK’s parent company Fox International Channels, which was agreed before the LA Screenings even got underway.
A particularly interesting one is Empire, which was only recently acquired by Channel 4’s youth-skewing E4. There was little interest in the show in the immediate aftermath of the screenings. It was after the show started drawing huge ratings for Fox that UK buyers really got interested, only to be beaten to the punch by C4. But the ratings appeal of the show, which is being identified as part of a wider trend in the US where “diversity equals ratings”, has led to renewed interest in other “diverse” shows such as Black-ish and Fresh Off The Boat.
Elsewhere, comic book adaptations were still big business for the studios. This, despite concern from some UK buyers that, as had been seen in previous years, the networks had overplayed their respective hands and that there were simply too many comic book shows on the marketplace.
It was a fair enough concern, but one that came to naught, with comic book shows quickly securing UK deals. The Flash headed to Sky, while Channel 5 was able to secure first window rights to Gotham (thanks in large part to a play from Netflix to get exclusive SVOD rights across the world). Interestingly the comic book show that was highlighted as the most distinctive at the screenings, iZombie, is one that has yet to land with a UK buyer.
Another key trend from the 2013-2014 season that spilled over into 2014-2015 was comedy heavy slates. There were some 17 comedies that have (or will) launch this season, but only two have been acquired for UK broadcast. Those shows are Sony’s Marry Me and CBS Studios International’s Jane The Virgin, both of which went to E4.
Traditionally comedy has had a tougher time on the international market, as it’s much harder to find a global hit in that genre than it is with drama (or even a drama with comedic elements). But UK buyers were far more wary this year than in the past, due in no small part to the fact that most of the comedies from 2013-2014 that reached the UK were cancelled after just one season. Instead UK broadcasters are taking a wait and see approach, with E4 only swooping for The Goldbergs after it secured a second season order from ABC.
Looking purely at the number of broadcast series crossing the pond, sales do appear depressed year-to-year (by this same point last season 23 shows had secured UK deals). However, it is worth noting that sources on both sides agree that deals have taken longer to tie down this year, thanks in no small part to increased competition (IE bidding wars) and more complex agreements (thanks to windowing, on-demand and OTT vs linear broadcast rights).
That being the case there are still several deals being worked out for shows from the current season. Those shows include the previously mentioned Fresh Off The Boat and Black-ish, while there have also been rumblings in the past week of a UK pick up for Backstrom. One eagerly anticipated show that is still not expected to reach the UK is Marvel’s Agent Carter, thanks in no small part to the short order the show received (international deals tend to be a tough sell on anything below a 13 episode order). Like the bulk of this season’s comedies, UK buyers are waiting to see if it gets to a second season before they are prepared to make a play for the Hayley Atwell fronted period drama.