SelecTV may bring U.K. TV to U.S. cable

British indie TV producer SelecTV is exploring the possibility of creating a U.K. cable channel in the U.S., chief exec Allan McKeown revealed Thursday.

McKeown has approached major British TV library owners, such as Thames TV and the BBC, about the idea, and says he is also in discussions with a large U.S. cable company, which he didn’t identify.

He believes that launching the channel, which would screen mainstream British entertainment shows, could become viable when digital compression vastly expands the capacity of U.S. cable systems.

Five million Britons live in the U.S., and there is no channel that plays commercial British entertainment programming, he said.

In the meantime, SelecTV’s co-development and reformatting deal with Twentieth TV for U.S. network programming has been allowed to expire after five years, having failed to produce a Stateside hit.

McKeown said he is currently negotiating a new deal with another studio, but SelecTV (better known in the U.S. under the name of its American offshoot, Witzend Inc.) will not retain any ownership rights in shows produced with the new partner.

However, the company is switching the emphasis of its U.S. production strategy from network TV to cable. It’s producing a comedy special for HBO starring Tracey Ullman.

“Owing to the depressed state of the U.S. syndication market, and since the recent change in the FCC financial interest rules, the economics of U.S. network production are now not as attractive as they were,” said McKeown. But”Lovejoy,” one of SelecTV’s most successful comedy drama series in the U.K., is a hit on cable’s Arts & Entertainment Network.

SelecTV Thursday confirmed its status as one of Britain’s leading indie producers by reporting a 91% rise in pretax profits to T809,000 ($ 1.2 million) for the year ending March 31. Sales were up 74% to T19.9 million ($ 29.3 million).

Earlier this week, publishing group Associated Newspapers increased its stake in the company to 12.5% by acquiring a 3% stake from former chairman Michael Buckley for T1 million ($ 1.47 million).

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