BSkyB brings back ‘Gladiators’

U.S. success prompts U.K. revival

LONDON — The flagship web of paybox BSkyB is reviving entertainment powerhouse “Gladiators” following the successful revamp of the show in the U.S. by NBC.

The U.K. take on the program, a big Saturday night hit for local web ITV in the 1990s, will air on Sky One and be made by Elisabeth Murdoch’s shingle Shine.

The British super-indie is finalizing its acquisition of Reveille, which produces “American Gladiators” with MGM Television.

Sky One controller Richard Woolfe said: “Just like the revival of Take That and the Spice Girls, the return of this David-and-Goliath contest will be unmissable.”

The web said it will build “one of the biggest studio sets in U.K. television history” to stage the reinvented “Gladiators,” axed in Blighty in 2000.

A 10-episode run will start in May and Sky intends to reinvent the show “for the 21st century with bigger thrills and maximum impact using special effects, water skills and the latest technology.”

Woolfe added: “Sky One viewers can look forward to a televisual treat — the return of the ultimate David and Goliath battle where everyday amateurs will compete against a new breed of gladiator.”

Ordering “Gladiators” looks to be another sign of Sky One beefing up its original commissions in response to a shortage of U.S. scripted fare due to the writers’ strike.

But the channel needs to raise its profile. Ratings have been hit hard by the dispute between BSkyB and Virgin Media, which means that U.K. cable auds can no longer watch the channel, and the success of U.K. digital terrestrial platform Freeview, which does not carry Sky One.