ITV renews Australian ‘Home’ in $ 35 mil deal

The ITV web has reordered Aussie soap “Home and Away” for another three years at a price of T20 million ($ 35 million), believed to be one of the most expensive deals ever for an imported show on British television.

The web was forced to more than double the previous rate it paid to London-based indie distrib Portman Entertainment for the hit show, in order to fight off a rival bid from satellite broadcaster BSkyB.

This is the new competitive face of U.K. TV. In the past, ITV and the pubcaster, BBC, had a policy of not trying to poach each other’s hit imports. But the arrival of BSkyB as a powerful force in the market, with a predominantly imported schedule on its general entertainment channel Sky One, has changed the game.

Portman originally planned to renew “Home and Away” with ITV at a much lower price, and sell rerun rights to UK Gold, the satellite oldies channel owned by the BBC, Thames TV and Cox Enterprises. But ITV vetoed the UK Gold deal, so Portman invited BSkyB to make a counter-offer for the entire three-year package.

“Home and Away” debuted in the U.K. in 1989, running on ITV five times a week in the early evening with audiences of about 14 million viewers.

Granada Television is developing a new program genre for British TV, the telefilm comedy, in an attempt to rectify the ITV web’s weakness in comedy programming. One project is an adaptation of the successful stage play “An Evening With Gary Lineker.” The company also plans to develop more programming in the two-hour drama serial format.

Japan’s SogoVision has agreed to co-produce two more telefilms with U.K. producer/distrib Portman Entertainment, after the completion of principal photography on their first collaboration, “Crime Broker,” which was produced in association with Toei and Australia’s Ten Network. The next two movies, likely to be “Best of Friends” and “The Seventh Floor,” also will be made for Ten Network.

Filmnet, the pay-film service for Scandinavia and Benelux, will relaunch Dec. 1 as Filmnet+, adding children’s sports, music and special event programming to its usual movie schedule. A new second channel, devoted exclusively to films will be launched in the next couple of months, and the two services will be offered to subscribers for the same price as the old single channel.

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