Just last week, ITV made something of a splash when they announced that they had acquired the third and fourth seasons of FX’s cold war spy drama The Americans for their nascent pay channel ITV Encore. As TVWise previously revealed, the acquisition of the new seasons, which was something of a reversal on the previous decision not to renew the licensing deal for The Americans on the main channel, only came about following a shift in strategy.
That shift in strategy took some time to be ok’d and meant that there had to be a commitment to pursue U.S. scripted drama for ITV Encore, rather than merely focussing on repeats of main channel dramas, international series such as Jordskott and locals commissions like The Frankenstein Chronicles and Midwinter Of The Spirit. Especially as, prior to this shift in strategy, the only U.S. drama to screen on ITV Encore was Gracepoint, Fox’s adaptation of Broadchurch.
“We’d acquired Gracepoint, but we weren’t really specifically looking for American dramas for [ITV] Encore given its USP”, ITV’s Head of Acquired Series Sasha Breslau recently told TVWise. “Gracepoint was an interesting case but it was done for very specific reasons in so far as it’s a remake of one of our most successful ever dramas and we wouldn’t have wanted that going on a competitor channel. But eventually we made the decision that we were happy to go down the American drama route on [ITV] Encore”.
Being the property that prompted it, The Americans will of course be the first major U.S. scripted drama to premiere in the UK on ITV Encore as part of the new strategy. But beyond that show, what exactly are the channel’s ambitions when it comes to U.S. drama? Breslau tells TVWise that ITV will be looking to acquire a “select number” of upscale dramas for the pay TV channel, which at present is only available on the Sky platform.
The primary push will be on securing shows with a cable sensibility, rather than focussing on something that’s too broad, especially given ITV Encore’s aim to serve more “discerning viewers” who are looking for something that’s more thought provoking and a bit more niche in its appeal. “It’s [dramas] that wouldn’t play on the main channel because they’re not broad enough, but things which are really quality pieces of storytelling with great characters”, said Breslau.
Both Jordskott and The Americans fit that mould and with more U.S. networks commissioning original dramas than ever before, ITV certainly wont be spoiling for choice, but don’t expect U.S. drama to suddenly become a huge focus for the channel. “We’re somewhat hampered by slot and budget”, she added. “We’ve only got one slot for new and unmissable, exclusive content, which is the Wednesday night 10pm slot. So we can’t, even if I wanted to, go out and buy loads of new shows, but it will be something which I’d like to think of as a carefully curated selection of exclusive dramas”.