LONDON — Cash-strapped U.K. terrestrial web Five is still in the market for buying high-profile U.S. shows despite being put up for sale by owner RTL.
Channel controller Richard Woolfe, speaking to the Broadcasting Press Guild Wednesday, said although budgets were “challenged” coin was available for acquisitions.
“We’ve got money to spend, it’s business as usual,” insisted Woolfe.
He acknowledged that Five was recently outbid for U.K. rights to CBS’s reboot of “Hawaii Five-O” by digital rival Bravo following the recent L.A. Screenings.
Woolfe said: “I saw over 65 shows at the Screenings and there was not a great deal of quality in evidence, but there were some good shows.”
He indicated new acquisitions were likely to be announced in the next few weeks.
Woolfe said he and his colleagues were reluctant to buy new shows on the basis of viewing a pilot at the Screenings because Five wanted to be sure that the quality of story arcs would be sustained throughout a full series.
A year ago Five, whose schedules are driven to a large extent by imports, bought U.K. rights to Disney’s “FlashForward,” but the skein, despite performing well for the web, was cancelled in the U.S.
There is speculation that Five is about to renew a deal with Warners, which will include new rights to “The Mentalist,” a solid performer for the web.
But Woolfe was tight-lipped regarding a pending agreement and a Five spokesman said that negotiations with Warners were “ongoing.”
The program topper joined the web in April 2009 during a period of retrenchment at Five, which saw one in three staff pink-slipped and the program budget cut by around a third.
Despite speculation about his own future at Five and concerns regarding future ownership of the broadcaster, Woolfe did his best to appear upbeat during his powwow with the BPG.
“Five is not the poor sad basket case of the U.K. terrestrial family. We need to get out there and sell ourselves more effectively,” he insisted.
“We can do a lot better, but we are holding our own and when we have invested in the right shows, such as ‘FlashForward,’ the results speak for themselves.”
Woolfe declined to comment on the broadcaster’s future ownership — other than the need for investment when (or should that be if?) a new owner emerges.