C4 coin for U.S. shows?

Channel 4, the U.K. commercial pubcaster hybrid, is mulling co-production with U.S. studios to cut costs in a tough ad market.

Speaking at the unveiling of C4’s fall schedule on Wednesday, acquisitions topper Jeff Ford said that it may make financial sense for the web to invest in U.S. shows at script stage rather than buying finished product.

“We’re looking at a few scripts and asking ourselves, Is this something we’d want to get involved with?” he said. “With advertising revenue going down, it is something we are considering. The BBC co-produced ‘Rome’ with HBO, and Sky has done it with sci-fi series.”

C4’s sked is generally heavy with U.S. skeins. It recently brought forward the transmission date of the second season of “Lost,” partly on fears that ratings could be hit as some viewers download the show illegally.

However, the web’s fall schedule is surprisingly light on American shows.

The post-9 p.m. Friday slot, traditionally a showcase for U.S. comedy, will be filled by domestic programs.

“We haven’t been able to find any American shows that were suitable, but we are planning to put U.S. series in that slot in the winter and next autumn,” said C4 director of television Kevin Lygo.

Showtime’s Islamic terrorist drama “Sleeper Cell” will air in the fall, cut from 10 hours to five 90-minute episodes.

Leading C4’s fall homegrown drama slate is “Longford.” Co-production between Granada Television and HBO is the story of how maverick Catholic politician Lord Longford befriended convicted child murderer Myra Hindley in prison.

“Goldplated,” described by drama chief Tessa Ross as ” ‘Dallas’ with death,” is a new skein exploring the U.K.’s nouveau riche, while “Low Winter Sun,” helmed by Adrian Shergold, is an edgy two-part thriller.

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