Big Blighty TV spend

Hot U.S. TV skeins will fetch top coin

The price Brit execs will pay for exclusive rights to high-end U.S. TV skeins could reach north of $750,000 an episode at this year’s L.A. Screenings, according to Sky topper Dawn Airey.

Airey’s remarks stand in contrast to those of her lieutenant at the satcaster, outgoing Sky One controller James Baker, who last summer warned that some American shows risked pricing themselves out of the British market.

“In the last year, the acquisitions market has gone bonkers,” Baker said. “It’s getting close to the point where you can invest in U.K. drama for that kind of money and have more control and not be so much under the cosh of the U.S. studios.”

But Airey, managing director of Sky Networks, who recently appointed Living TV’s Richard Woolfe as the new head of Sky One, reckoned that even at $750,000, U.S. shows still provide good value for the money, “because they are unbelievably good and you’re getting a show that’s cost $10 million to make.”

With the U.K.’s biggest terrestrial web, ITV, back in the market for U.S. fare, as well as a cash-rich Channel 4, which airs “Desperate Housewives” and “Lost” in Blighty, Airey knows Sky will have to pay top dollar at the Screenings should British webs get into a bidding war.

Speaking to media scribes Tuesday at the Broadcasting Press Guild in London, the ever-candid Airey admitted the Rupert Murdoch-backed satcaster had made a mistake by not bidding for “Desperate Housewives” or “Lost.”

“Some you win, some you lose,” she said. “As for ‘Lost,’ the Screenings can be a bit of a crap shoot. We didn’t bid for it because I had my doubts over whether the kind of quality evident in the pilot, which cost a fortune, could be sustained.”

Sky One spends half its budget on U.S. acquisitions. Airey indicated it would be Woolfe’s decision how the coin is divvied up when he joins the channel in April.

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