Ancier putting his stamp on cabler
BBC America is saying cheerio to “The Avengers” and “Benny Hill” and ‘allo, ‘allo to more modern shows like “Waking the Dead” and the already popular “Footballers’ Wives.”
Just a month after taking control of the channel, BBC Worldwide Americas topper Garth Ancier on Monday announced plans for a radical makeover of the net in which a number of classic British skeins will be dumped in favor of a lineup favoring current or very recent hits.
“We’re undergoing a complete transformation,” Ancier said. “We’ve taken shows like ‘The Avengers’ and ‘The Saint’ off the schedule. We want to present a view of contemporary Britain. It’s what the BBC does best. I’d rather have ‘Wire in the Blood’ than ‘Benny Hill.’ ”
BBCA has generated plenty of critical buzz, but its ratings have been slow to build. Cabler, now seen in some 54 million homes, is going in the right direction, however, with ratings in adults 25-54 up 7% in primetime vs. 2006.
To launch the lineup, Ancier is expanding from one or two themed nights of programming to a sked in which every night has a theme. He also plans on imposing strict discipline on BBCA’s schedulers, insisting that the net stick to announced plans rather than preempt shows every few weeks for stunts and specials.
“What I kept hearing from people in the industry and the press is that they like BBC shows but never knew when they were on,” Ancier said. “When you’re a smaller cable network, you have to have an extraordinarily consistent schedule. You can’t deviate.”
And so, starting in June, BBCA will organize its sked according to themes such as “Murder Mondays” (crime dramas), “Wicked Wednesdays” (sudsers) and “Supernatural Saturdays” (sci-fi/thrillers).
To make up for the absence of the older fare, BBCA has acquired skeins from various producers, including new seasons of “MI:5” (last seen on A&E), the Aaron Spelling-esque “Hotel Babylon,” family drama “Wild at Heart” (being adapted for the U.S. by Ancier’s old home, the CW) and the young-skewing drama “Sinchronicity.”
BBCA is also importing popular Blighty sudser “Hollyoaks,” which will be stripped Monday-Friday at 10 p.m. Skein will repeat in the daytime, with five-seg marathons slated for weekends.
“When Fox and the CW go off the air at 10 p.m., and their younger audiences disperse, we have some place for them to go,” Ancier said.
Exec is also adding more BBC News to BBCA. Cabler now airs three hours of news from 6 to 9 a.m. and an hour at 7 p.m. Ancier’s first move at BBC America was to shift the evening news to 7 from 6, and that’s already reaped ratings benefits, he said.
BBCA is also getting ready to add a West Coast feed, most likely within the next six months.
As for the specific nights:
Murder Mondays will include skeins such as “Wire in the Blood” and “Murphy’s Law,” while “Tuesday Nitro” will go after younger men with actioners and reality skeins. Sudsers slated for “Wicked Wednesday” include the final season of “Wives,” “Hotel Babylon” and “Goldplated.”
“Big Thursday” will focus on larger-than-life personalities, with reality skeins from Gordon Ramsay and Graham Norton, while “Crime Scene Friday” offers up procedurals such as “Whistleblower,” “Waking the Dead,” “Silent Witness” and “The Innocence Project.” Look for “Jekyll,” “Life on Mars” and “Doctor Who” spinoff “Torchwood” on “Supernatural Saturday.”
Cabler also is planning comedies for Saturdays at 10, including “Lead Balloon” and “Life and Times of Vivian Vyle.” BBCA will offer a mix of family-themed fare on “Adventure Sunday,” as well as “The Brit Movie.”
BBCA is distribbed by Discovery Networks. It will present highlights of its new strategy to advertisers at Discovery’s upfront presentation Thursday in Gotham.