U.K. web shopping for TV smashes

LONDON — The new program honcho at Blighty’s Channel 4 is turning up the heat in the hunt for new U.S. programs.

“With ‘Friends,’ ‘Sex and the City’ and ‘Frasier’ all coming to an end, the challenge is to find new shows,” said Kevin Lygo, speaking at the web’s spring launch, his first since rejoining C4 last year.

Lygo strongly stressed to Hollywood distributors that the station can provide a better showcase for their fare than rival satellite net Sky One. “Sky has very deep pockets: They paid a small fortune for ‘Nip/Tuck’ and ’24.’ But terrestrial channels like Channel 4 can offer U.S. programs a profile they don’t get on Sky because after the initial flurry it’s easy to forget they are there.

“We’ve got the best track record in nurturing these shows, and that gives us a competitive advantage, but it is getting harder, and at the end of the day it’s all about the power of the dollar.”

Among series that will air on C4 in the coming weeks are the first season of Warner Bros.’ “The OC” and the fifth season of “The West Wing.”

With “Friends” bowing out in May, and “The Simpsons,” poached at huge expense from BBC2, not available until the fall, this year’s L.A. Screenings will be of particular interest to C4.

Meanwhile, the web, under pressure from a revived ITV1, the U.K.’s biggest commercial net, announced several programs to rescue its reputation for cutting-edge fare.

Shows include “The Boy Whose Skin Fell Off,” a moving docu about a man facing death with an incurable skin condition; “Omagh,” a drama docu examining an IRA bombing that killed 29 people; and “Bollywood Star,” a four-part search for the first British Bollywood superstar.

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