UKTV coin for original programs

Feevee may be aiming for aggressive pickup policy

LONDON — Blighty’s second- biggest paybox, UKTV, owned jointly by the BBC and Flextech, is adjusting its program strategy as it faces increasing competition from free channels run by ITV and Channel 4.

More coin is being plowed into original production and signs are that the outfit aims to adopt a more aggressive acquisitions policy.

At UKTV’s first schedule launch since it bowed in 1997, chief operating officer John Keeling unveiled a lineup of shows slanted toward lifestyle and other factual-related fare –and the combo’s first exclusive U.S. purchase, ABC legal saga “In Justice,” starring Kyle MacLachlan.

“We are spending about 20% more on original content,” says Keeling, who is bound for the L.A. Screenings.

He adds: “UKTV doesn’t have the money to compete with the big terrestrials or Sky for first rights to the more expensive U.S. shows, but acquired material, especially movies, is important to us.”

He says deals had recently been inked with Disney and Universal for movie packages to play out on flagship service UKTV Gold.

The first series of “In Justice” bows on UKTV Gold in July before being repeated on the Disney-owned U.K. digital free-to-air web ABC1 next January.

Gold also will transmit Fox skein “Prison Break,” which it bought jointly with free-to-air terrestrial Five, where show has become a cult success in Blighty.

Other fare unveiled by UKTV, whose offer embraces niche nets specializing in history, style, drama, documentary, gardening and food, included “How to Find a Husband,” “A Life Coach Less Ordinary” and “The ’60s: The Beatles’ Decade.”

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