U.K.: With plenty of space to fill, Brit buyers ready to spend some cash

LONDON — Expect competition to be more intense than ever at Mip this year as U.K. buyers attempt to outmaneuver one another, in order to feed their paymasters’ digital habit.

With memories of Channel 4’s success at outbidding both the BBC and Five for a hefty 20th Century Fox movie package in March and new channels in need of fare, the stage is set for a buying spree.

Since the fall, Blighty’s biggest private terrestrial broadcaster, ITV, has launched two new channels: struggling male-skewed ITV4 and kids’ web CITV. A further new service, games channel ITV Play, is due to bow later this spring.

ITV CEO Charles Allen has said he expects half the outfit’s advertising revenue to be generated by his upstart webs within four years’ time. But with a new commissioning team at ITV led by director of TV Simon Shaps, there is arguably more focus at flagship station ITV1 than in recent times.

Mip will mark the debut of acquisitions topper Jay Kandola in her new ITV threads.

At Channel 4, she was responsible for buying “Desperate Housewives” and “Lost,” but, with the exception of mainstream movies, ITV1 primetime remains driven by Brit drama.

It’s a different situation at C4, where is comedy is the No. 1 priority on the web’s shopping list.

“‘My Name Is Earl’ played well for us this winter but we need other comedy series that can perform for us on Friday nights, especially now that ‘Will and Grace’ is coming toward the end of its run,” says C4’s acquisitions head Jeff Ford.

As for U.K. sellers, Granada Intl.’s managing director Nadine Nohr is bullish about drama. Her slate includes the long-awaited return of Robbie Coltrane in a one-off TV movie, “Cracker: Nine Eleven,” already sold to Germany’s ZDF.

Nohr adds that Granada has a new mminiseries produced by the BBC, “The Impressionists,” starring Julian Glover (“Troy”) and Richard Armitage (“Cold Feet”).

Top 3 Shows

1. “Coronation Street,” ITV1

2. “EastEnders,” BBC1

3. “Dancing on Ice,” ITV1