New controller looking to buy up blockbusters

The new controller of BBC flagship web BBC1 will continue to buy Hollywood blockbusters despite hefty budget cuts at the pubcaster.

Danny Cohen, who took over at BBC1 in January, told the Broadcasting Press Guild on Wednesday there is still a need for U.S. movies for scheduling during big-viewing holidays such as Christmas and Easter.

However, he ruled out big acquisition plans for U.S. series because rivals like paybox BSkyB have much larger budgets.

“We lost ‘Mad Men’ to Sky and ‘Boardwalk Empire’ went to Sky for a very high price,” Cohen said. “We need to keep looking at things that are not expensive and which other broadcasters haven’t yet realized the value of such as ‘The Killing’ and ‘Family Guy.’ ”

Cohen, however, indicated that the BBC was keen to get involved in more co-productions such as the recent collaboration with U.S. cable net Starz on the new series of “Doctor Who” spin-off “Torchwood: Miracle Day.”

The show is being produced by BBC Worldwide Productions in Los Angeles and is set in the U.S. and the U.K.

A three-part version of “Great Expectations” is being co-produced with an unspecified U.S. partner, Cohen said, and due to bow in Blighty at Christmas.

The BBC is in the throes of an economy drive following last fall’s freeze on the license fee, which funds the pubcaster.

Some departments face budget cuts of as much as 25%, but Cohen declined to disclose how the cuts would impact BBC1, which has an annual budget of £1.4 billion ($2.3 billion).

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