Last week it was the networks in New York with the Upfronts, focussing on the US domestic market; and this week it’s the major studios’ turn as they host buyers from around the world at the LA Screenings.
Buyers and representatives from most of the UK broadcasters are in Hollywood (well, Burbank) being feted on and checking out the latest shows on offer from Disney Media Distribution, CBS Studios International, Twentieth Century Fox Television Distribution, Sony Pictures Television, NBCUniversal International Television Distribution and Warner Bros. International Television Distribution.
But as we await word on just which of the new series are playing well with international buyers, just what is it that UK broadcasters – including the BBC, Sky, ITV, Amazon, Netflix, Syfy UK, UKTV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 – are looking for, broadly speaking, as we head into the screenings?
Netflix and Amazon are both eyeing new exclusive content out of the LA Screenings. This is not a particularly new development, as both have been attending the Screening for the past couple of years. But last year was the first time that an OTT service secured a series – after extremely lengthy negotiations – off the back of the LA Screenings.
That series was buzzy Starz drama Outlander, which eventually landed at Amazon as part of a very lucrative multi-year licensing agreement with Sony Pictures Television. But that was merely a warning shot, with Amazon eyeing a “big budget, broad network show”, according to insiders. Likewise, Netflix will also be carefully eyeing the new crop of shows, not wanting to lose ground to its closest rival – who recently secured every single AMC series (produced in-house) in an output deal with eOne.
Channel 4 are heading into the screenings with a renewed push for drama. “Edgy” was the phrase coming out of Horseferry Road for the past few weeks, with a feeling that they were more or less set on the comedy side of things with the likes of The Big Bang Theory, 2 Broke Girls, The Goldbergs etc. That said, as with a lot of UK buyers, there is some keen interest in Bill Prady’s The Muppets reboot, which has a 13 episode order at ABC. Drama for More4 is a priority, with all eyes on something that could compliment and eventually replace The Good Wife – which is expected to wrap its run after this upcoming seventh season. Early contenders include Wicked City and The Family.
Sky, who for years dominated the UK market when it comes to US acquisitions, recently announced plans to shift commissions away from Sky Living and re-focus the channel’s budget on US scripted, where they had seen great success in the past. That being the case, acquisitions boss Sarah Wright and other execs will be carefully examining the new slate of shows. Procedurals will be a big target, such as the very well received Quantico. Sky will also be hunting for new content for both Sky1 and Sky Atlantic as well. Expect comedy (The Muppets is wowing across the board), cable shows, DC’s Legends Of Tomorrow and Supergirl to be on the agenda here.
Old stalwarts BBC and ITV still command a lot of attention here in LA. The BBC has not been a big buyer of US content for years, with the recent deal with NBCU for NBC thriller American Odyssey being an extremely rare one. But the BBC stresses that if the “right show came along” they would swoop for it. ITV on the other hand, buys a steady stream of content from the studios, mainly for ITV2, and they are looking for a new comedy to sit alongside Mom on the youth-skewing channel.
Channel 5 are also in town, with acquisitions boss Katie Keenan, who recently added oversight for MTV, Comedy Central and Spike, having something of a large shopping list. With Viacom money behind them, C5 is expected to make a big play this year, picking up a wealth of new dramas and comedies for their portfolio of channels. There is renewed demand for drama on Channel 5’s digi-nets, while Comedy Central are after a “number of high-impact sitcoms” and Spike UK is searching for a “breakout hit”. A broad show and a crime procedural is also being sought for the main C5 channel.
UKTV, who made a very strong showing out of the 2013 LA Screenings, are also in the mix, with the acquisitions team, led by Director of Acquisitions Catherine Mackin and Head of Acquisitions & Co-Productions Alexandra Finlay, on the hunt for content for Watch, Dave and Alibi. For Watch “we’re particularly looking for things that have a procedural bent to them, which lends itself to genres such as medical and crime”, Finlay told TVWise.
“In terms of Dave… we would love to find another piece to sit alongside [Suits], either drama or also potentially comedy”, she added. “Alibi is all about crime and in particular crime procedurals. Titles like Castle and Rizzoli & Isles have done fantastically well for us over the last couple of years and we’re absolutely seeking more content that will sit alongside those key titles.”
The UK arm of Universal Networks International are also in town. From what I’m told they didn’t come with a particular shopping list in hand for either Universal Channel or Syfy UK. Syfy UK is “very well served” by the pipeline of content produced by UCP for the US Syfy network and something would need to “grab” their execs, like The Originals did a couple of years ago, for them to make a play. Universal on the other hand is looking for a new buzzy entry that could sit alongside Sleepy Hollow and How To Get Away With Murder – with Code Black and Quantico being highlighted as possibilities.