LONDON — Blighty’s two main terrestrial webs have new creative leaders, a circumstance that is bound to have an impact on their respective buying strategies.
This is especially true of Peter Fincham, ITV’s new director of TV, who will oversee not only flagship channel ITV1 but also the schedules of digital contenders ITV2, 3 and 4.
Acquisitions play only a minor role on ITV1 and BBC1, whose new controller, Jay Hunt, will be responsible for keeping Blighty’s most successful channel on track. However, though domestic fare dominates at BBC1, U.S. shows are increasingly being deployed to drive auds to the pubcaster’s other webs.
BBC acquisitions head George McGhee reckons that across the board, the Beeb has the strongest portfolio of U.S. fare in place than at any time in the past six or seven years.
“The BBC has never been a heavy buyer of peak-time American series,” McGhee says. “But we’ve now got shows on BBC1, 2, 3 and 4 that complement our own original commissions.”
“Heroes” gave BBC2 one of its highest peak-time audiences of 2007, generating in excess of
4 million viewers and a share of around 20%. And “Damages,” starring Glenn Close as a hard-boiled lawyer, has won rave notices for BBC1 in a latenight Sunday slot.
In traditional terms, “Damages” could not be described as a hit show, as fewer than 2 million viewers are tuning in, but it’s proving popular with the pubcaster’s new on-demand catch-up service, the BBCiPlayer.
Meanwhile the Golden Globe-winning “Mad Men,” set on Madison Avenue during the ’60s, and “Family Guy” are helping to cement the appeal of BBC4 and 3 respectively.
“It is nice to have this panoply of U.S shows that we’ve never had before,” McGhee observes. “It’s not all about getting huge numbers, but bringing something different and distinctive to the various channels.”
For McGhee, Mip will be about gathering intelligence, vital in a year disrupted by a writers strike.
“The market will be more interesting than normal,” he opines. “There are … fewer shows and more commissioned pilots going straight to series, so we need to be talking to all the right people. … I am very happy with what we’ve got, but none of these shows is going to last forever.
“Will Glenn Close want to do more than three or four seasons of ‘Damages’? I am looking to pick up replacements for further down the road.”