Blighty’s ITV balks at pricey Yank fare

Net topper looks to homegrown drama

Commercial broadcaster ITV’s enthusiasm for U.S. fare may be beginning to wane following the recent bidding war that saw “Desperate Housewives” and “Lost” sell for more than $1 million an episode in Blighty.

Speaking at the launch of the web’s winter schedule Monday, ITV television topper Simon Shaps said he would rather invest in homegrown drama than pay sky-high prices for U.S. imports.

“ITV’s uniqueness is continued investment in original drama,” he said. “If you gave me a choice between acquisitions and first-rate local investment in drama, it would be straightforward.”

Shaps described the license fees recently paid by BSkyB and Channel 4 for renewals on “Lost” and “Desperate Housewives” as “incredibly large sums of money.”

ITV bid for “Desperate Housewives” but was beaten by C4, which as the rights holder to seasons one and two had first refusal to match any competing offers.

Shaps also revealed that “Six Degrees,” the J.J. Abrams skein that bowed to disappointing ratings on ABC earlier this fall, has been dropped from ITV1’s winter sked.

The show, bought at May’s L.A. Screenings, would have been the first U.S. show to air on ITV1 for almost a decade.

“It is not absolutely clear what is going to happen to the show yet,” Shaps said.

Asked how BSkyB’s recent purchase of a 17.9% stake in ITV would affect him, Shaps said, “There is no change in the way that I am operating.”

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