ITV1 changes gears with ‘Degrees’

Territory report: United Kingdom

As new digital webs continue to roll out, it should be a sellers’ market for distributors negotiating with U.K. buyers at Mipcom this fall. If only things were that simple.

Following an unprecedented British buying spree at the L.A. Screenings — with ITV and Channel 4 leading the charge — schedulers at Blighty’s main private webs have a lot of U.S. fare to deploy in the months ahead.

Embattled ITV, soon to appoint a new CEO following the ankling of Charles Allen, is back in the acquisitions market with a vengeance, buying principally for digital weblets ITV2 and 4 at the Screenings.

However, Gotham-based “Six Degrees” is being lined up for flagship web ITV1 in what represents the first time a U.S. skein has played out in primetime on ITV1 for almost a decade.

Only time will tell if this strategy will fizzle out and the hits fail to materialize.

At the moment, ITV’s acquisitions topper Jay Kandola, who recently outbid the BBC for exclusive rights to the U.S. version of “The Office,” continues to enjoy her honeymoon at the broadcaster.

“We bought some of the very best shows at the Screenings, but we’re going to Cannes to talk to all the main suppliers about what else is available,” she says. “With so many long-term deals in place, the market is pretty locked down. There also might be some reality shows and film packages that are of interest.”

Kandola is well aware that competition between the U.K.’s private terrestrial players gets hotter all the time. FilmFour relaunched as a free channel in July after struggling to cut it in the pay jungle.

Early indications are that the availability of a free premium movie web could hit rivals hard.

Meanwhile, Five’s belated digital strategy got under way recently when acquisitions-hungry Five US and Five Life finally bowed.

As usual, C4 acquisitions chief Jeff Ford — wearing two hats since being tapped to run the FilmFour channel — will be doing the rounds at Mipcom.

“Film4 has got off to a fantastic start as a free service,” he says, “but the channel is more exposed than it was as a pay service. Our film-buying policy must reflect that.”

Ford adds: “At Mipcom we’ll be looking at specialist programming for More4 (the digital weblet launched a year ago and well-liked by upscale auds) as well as for the needs of the main channel.”

Of the larger U.K. multichannel players, Sky looks to be less active in the acquisitions market under new controller Richard Woolfe than it was when predecessor James Baker called the shots.

Meanwhile, Flextech-owned Living TV, with new topper Claudia Rosencrantz onboard, needs to make a splash and get its schedule back in gear following a difficult year to date.

The right U.S. skein could make all the difference.

TOP 3 SHOWS

  1. “Coronation Street,” ITV1

  2. “EastEnders,” BBC1

  3. “Emmerdale,” ITV1
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