UKTV Emerges As Key Player With Hollywood Studios

Through a careful and deliberate acquisitions strategy UKTV has emerged as a key player with the Hollywood Studios, says TVWise Editor Patrick Munn.

With the LA Screenings now behind us, the six studios and various UK broadcasters are engaging in the deal making process. Despite sending buyers to LA, most UK broadcasters were waiting until they returned to London before engaging in any serious discussions. It’s now that the key players are engaging in those serious discussions in the hopes of securing next season’s hits.

It is those key players who tend to secure the best of the best out of the screenings. So just who are these key players? The pack is led by Sky, who are still the most aggressive buyer of US content, but also includes Channel 4 and Channel 5. The BBC and ITV also have longstanding relationships with the Hollywood Studios and, if they chose to seriously compete, could secure some high profile series, but with both shying away from first run US content in favour of original commissions, neither are as important as they once were.

It is thanks to the BBC and ITV’s move towards originals that several multi-channel broadcasters have been able to secure some buzzy series in recent years. Universal Networks International made an impressive showing this past season with the likes of Sleepy Hollow and The Originals, but it is UKTV that has emerged as the one to watch.

The network of 10 channels only recently began buying first run scripted content. UKTV really emerged as a serious buyer in 2010/2011. 2010 saw the deal with Disney for Body of Proof and Castle; while 2011 saw the company acquire Rizzoli & Isles from WB and the USA Network dramedy Suits, NBC’s high-end horror series Grimm and CIA drama Covert Affairs from NBCU.

UKTV sources note that the three series deal for Grimm, Suits and Covert Affairs took some time to put together, with NBCU, like other studios, not initially considering the company to be a “serious buyer.” The “scope” of the deal changed the minds of NBCU’s distribution execs and word began to spread that UKTV was prepared to pursue first window rights to high profile US series.

That represented a major change for the company, who, before 2010/2011, had been all but absent when it came to securing first window on US content. UKTV followed up on those buys with more high profile acquisitions such as Alcatraz, Do No Harm, Hart of Dixie and Beauty & The Beast. All of which had strong pushes on the marketing and advertising front. By the time that UKTV’s top execs landed in LA for the 2013 screenings, the broadcaster’s importance with the studios had grown significantly.

With a £110 million content budget, UKTV showed no signs of slowing down and after the 2013 LA Screenings went hard after a number of series. Their first high-profile acquisition of the past season was King & Maxwell, which hailed from NCIS showrunner Shane Brennan and was one of the hotter cable series at that year’s screenings.

It was in the months that followed that UKTV was able to secure first window on three extremely high-profile series: the NBC thriller Crisisas well as Almost Human and Believe – the latest two entries from JJ Abrams and his WBTV based Bad Robot Productions. All of which are understood to have been acquired after UKTV beat off major competition from other UK broadcasters.

It was those three deals that showed UKTV was both willing and able to compete, not only with other multi-channel broadcasters, but with the more established kids on the block such as Sky, Channel 4 and Channel 5. Will we see more of that this year? Maybe. But one thing is clear – through a careful and deliberate acquisitions strategy, UKTV has now cemented their position as a key player with the Hollywood Studios.