EXCLUSIVE: After what was a strong LA Screenings, the expectation from both the major Hollywood Studios (CBS, Disney, Fox, Sony, NBCU and Warner Bros) and the UK buyers is that this season there will be a boost in sales of US scripted dramas and comedies to these shores.
There have already been early signs of this with ABC ‘s new take on The Muppets quickly landing at Sky1 only weeks after their execs returned from Los Angeles. Word has it that, somewhat out of the norm, Sky made a pre-emptive offer on the ground in Los Angeles and, with their deep pockets, quickly beat off competition from the likes of ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 (the BBC also briefly considered a bid).
But if The Muppets was merely the first in a wave of deals, what else is destined to reach the UK by the end of May 2016? The list is fairly exhaustive, with various broadcasters at various stages of deal making. Some shows are still being carefully considered, other are being bid on aggressively (read: The X-Files Revival), while a couple of broadcasters are in the final rounds of exclusive talks for some high profile shows.
TVWise has pinned down four (when technically five) shows that are close to being snapped up by UK broadcasters. Said shows include NBC’s Blindspot, starring Strike Back‘s Sullivan Stapleton; Showtime’s Damian Lewis and Paul Giamatti fronted Billions; USA Network’s hacker drama Mr. Robot; and CBS’ Supergirl, which was identified across the board as a target for a number of UK broadcasters ahead of the LA Screenings. Full details follow below..
Created by Martin Gero, Blindspot follows a woman covered in tattoos who wakes up naked in Times Square, suffering from amnesia. Her case catches the attention of the FBI, which soon discovers that the tattoos are in fact a roadmap that leads them to a large conspiracy. The drama is produced by Warner Bros. Television and stars Sullivan Stapleton, Jaimie Alexander, Audrey Esparza, Rob Brown, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Ukweli Roach and Ashley Johnson. The executive producers are Greg Berlanti, Martin Gero, Sarah Schechter and Mark Pellington.
Blindspot was a show that was identified as a potential hit by numerous buyers back in Los Angeles in May and it was widely expected to be amongst the first to land a UK deal, especially as it hails from Arrow super-producer Greg Berlanti and has an identifiable (co)star in Sullvan Stapleton, who starred in four seasons of Strike Back for Sky1 and Cinemax. TVWise understands that Sky is in “an advanced stage” of talks with Warner Bros International Television Distribution to secure the UK rights to the show for Sky Living. I’m hearing rumblings that it may be part of a multi-series deal being negotiated that also includes new Arrow spin-off DC’s Legends Of Tomorrow. In keeping with policy, representatives of Sky declined to comment on any potential deals.
From Andrew Ross Sorkin, David Levien and Brian Koppelman, Billions is set amongst the Machiavellian machinations of New York City power politics & finance and follows two highly ambitious opposing figures: hard-charging, blue-blooded, politically connected U.S. Attorney Chuck Rhoades (Giamatti) and brilliant, calculating, blue-collar billionaire hedge fund king, Bobby “Axe” Axelrod (Lewis). Maggie Siff, Malin Akerman, Toby Leonard Moore, David Costabile and Condola Rashad also star.
Billions was one show that certainly left a lasting impression with buyers given its “unique” opening moments. Showtime dramas tend to do relatively well on the international market as it is, with most (but by no means all) quickly getting snapped up for UK broadcast. That seems to be the case here as well, with several buyers high on the “perfect pairing” of Damian Lewis and Paul Giamatti. One senior buyer at a pay channel told me last week that the subject matter was “timely” and the show was “extremely distinctive” and was likely to be viewed as a “platform driver”. Several UK buyers are understood to be interested in this one and it’s not immediately clear where the series will land. Sources tell me that interested parties include Channel 4 (for More4), Netflix UK and Sky.
Mr. Robot follows Elliot, a programmer who suffers from a debilitating anti-social disorder and decides that he can only connect to people by hacking them. He wields his skills as a weapon to protect the people that he cares about. Elliot will find himself in the intersection between a cybersecurity firm he works for and the underworld organizations that are recruiting him to bring down corporate America. The drama series is produced by Universal Cable Productions and stars Rami Malek, Christian Slater, Portia Doubleday, Carly Chaikin and Martin Wallstrom.
In a lot of ways Mr. Robot was the surprise of the LA Screenings. Next to no one was talking about this show before the week long event in California in May, but it wowed across the board. Now this is not as hot as say Supergirl or The X-Files but I’m hearing rumblings that a bidding war is heating up for USA Network’s hacker drama. It’s been called “cinematic” (it is beautifully shot) and NBCU execs have been pushing “the appeal of the subject matter to younger audiences”, who can be difficult to by for. The early second season pick up is also fuelling interest. Everything is still to play for on this one with ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, UKTV, Universal Networks International (it’s not clear if they’re interested for Universal Channel or Syfy UK) and Amazon Prime all said to be pursuing the show (so you know, pretty much everyone). One acquisitions exec I spoke to earlier this week said they expected the level of interest in Mr Robot to make it the biggest deal (in cash terms) for a cable show since Sky poached Mad Men from the BBC. So watch this space….
Penned by Ali Adler and Greg Berlanti, Supergirl tells the story of Kara Zor-El, Superman’s cousin who escaped her homeplanet Krypton amidst its destruction. Since arriving on Earth, she’s been hiding the powers she shares with her famous cousin. But now at age 24, she decides to embrace her superhuman abilities and be the hero she was always meant to be. The drama series is produced by Warner Bros. Television & Berlanti Productions and stars Melissa Benoist, Calista Flockhart (Ally McBeal), Mehcad Brooks (Necessary Roughness), David Harewood (Homeland) and Chyler Leigh (Grey’s Anatomy). The executive producers are Greg Berlanti, Ali Adler and Sarah Schechter.
In news surprising no one, Supergirl is one of the most sought after series this year behind only The Muppets (already acquired by Sky1) and Arrow spin-off DC’s Legends Of Tomorrow. Sources at WB are being unusually quiet on this one and it has been difficult to pin down exactly what’s going in regards to a UK sale. Conventional wisdom in LA in May was that this one was going to Sky, but I’m now hearing that that is not certain, especially as my sources say they have opted to go after Legends Of Tomorrow. That being the case Channel 4 is understood to be the frontrunner, but Netflix UK has been pushing hard for the show as well. It’s been a case of radio-silence from C5 sources on this one, could another tie up with Netflix like they did to secure Gotham be on the cards here? I wouldn’t rule it out. But at present, my sources are saying that if things proceed as they have been over the past month, C4 will nab exclusive rights. It would be a major coup for the broadcaster, whose Marvel series Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been something of a disappointment, commercially speaking.