You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

BBC America targets U.S. auds

New content developed for American viewers

With a rising profile among viewers and advertisers, BBC America has begun creating content specifically for U.S. audiences: The network has greenlit two new series all its own and has five more in development.

The Beeb’s Stateside sister net has bought six hourlong episodes of “Hard Drive With Richard Hammond,” based on the BBC’s “World’s Toughest Driving Tests” and starring “Top Gear” host Hammond, as well as 13 half-hours of “Would You Rather With Graham Norton,” a gameshow shot in New York that pits comedians against each other. Both are working titles.

“Hard Drive” is produced by BBC Worldwide. “Would You Rather,” produced by So Television, will begin airing later this year as part of BBC America’s Ministry of Laughs comedy block.

In addition, BBC America will air one-hour special “Shock Therapy,” a backdoor pilot based on the BBC’s “Fat and Fatter,” in which the show’s hosts pair up young people with folks who resemble their future selves if they refuse to mend their ways.

The greenlights, said BBC America g.m. Perry Simon, are part of a larger original content strategy. “When (BBC Worldwide America prexy) Herb Scannell joined last summer and then brought me in as general manager, there was a plan put in to invest in original programming,” Simon said. “We wanted to do a two-pronged effort — scripted and unscripted.”

Scripted programming is a little further down the road than the unscripted content. “The reality is that you can pull unscripted together more quickly and you can do more with your budget initially,” he said. It helps, too, to goose ad dollars when you’re creating programming specifically for your market rather than repurposing. BBC America isn’t selling ad inventory through Discovery anymore, and it held its first upfront party earlier this year.

The net is hedging its bets with shows in development that play up to past successes on BBC America: Reveille’s “Auto Biography,” a show that reunites vintage cars with their past owners; New York-based cooking competish show “No Kitchen Required,” from producer Notional; and “Battlemodo,” a gadget comparison program produced by True Entertainment in association with Gawker Media’s tech site Gizmodo.

It’s also developing “James May’s Man Lab,” a U.S. version of the Brit show of the same name, in which “Top Gear” host May helps the shy and retiring to man up.

“All of these shows have some kind of connectivity to the BBC or to the U.K.,” Simon said of the new programs and the development slate. “No Kitchen” is designed to appeal to folks who like “Kitchen Confidential”; “Auto Biography” and “Hard Drive” both appeal to the “Top Gear” fanbase, and so on.

The new shows will also help BBC America with another problem: scheduling. Brit programs tend to have seasons of 12 episodes max. More often, it’s six or eight. “Another part of the strategy in building our own shows is that we can have more of a consistent pipeline,” Simon said.

And the network’s Ministry of Laughs and Dramaville programming blocks rep efforts to make programming types consistent, even when the programs have to change fairly regularly. “It creates a continuity that I don’t think we had before.”

More TV

  • Kacey Musgraves poses in the press

    CMA Awards: What Kacey, Maren, Garth, Blake and Dan + Shay Had to Say Backstage

    Backstage at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena, CMA Awards winners, performers and presenters came back to meet the press after their appearances, including Kacey Musgraves, Maren Morris, Garth Brooks, Blake Shelton, Dan + Shay, Ashley McBryde and Luke Combs. Garth Brooks was named entertainer of the year for the seventh time, and during his acceptance speech, he [...]

  • Killing Eve Sandra Oh Jodie Comer

    SAG Awards: How High-Profile TV Ensembles Increase Individual Performer Category Competition

    While this year’s Primetime Emmy Awards saw categories dominated by multiple performers from the same show (think “Game of Thrones,” which had at least one player represented in each major drama acting category, as well as “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” and “Fleabag,” whose on-screen talent nabbed spots in almost all the comedy categories), that trend [...]

  • BROOKLYN NINE-NINE -- "Honeymoon" Episode 601

    ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’ Renewed for Season 8 at NBC

    NBC has handed an early renewal to “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.” Season 7 of the cop comedy isn’t set to premiere until Feb. 6 2020, but the network has already seen fit to order an eighth season.  During season 6 (its first on NBC after being canceled by Fox in 2018), “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” averaged a 1.2 rating [...]

  • Ted Sarandos - Netflix

    Ted Sarandos Says Disney Plus Launch Changes 'Nothing' for Netflix

    Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos claims he’s not getting distracted by huge competitors — like Disney — rumbling into the company’s streaming turf. The exec was asked what has changed for Netflix with the Nov. 12 launch of Disney Plus, which the Mouse House boasted as having signed up over 10 million users so [...]

  • Kristen Stewart Actors on Actors

    Kristen Stewart Reveals She Loves 'Naked and Afraid': 'That Is High-End Reality TV'

    Kristen Stewart (“Seberg”) loves “Naked and Afraid” and wondering what shoes smell like. Stewart discussed her tastes in reality TV and interest in Shia LaBeouf’s (“Honey Boy”) shoes during a conversation for “Variety Studio: Actors on Actors.” LaBeouf began the interview by asking Stewart what she likes to watch in her free time. LaBeouf mentioned [...]

  • Lilly Burns Tony Hernandez

    Jax Media Soars by Amplifying Unique Voices of Auteur TV

    Jax Media has emerged during the past few years as one of television’s busiest and buzziest production companies. The New York-based company headed by four partners — Tony Hernandez, Lilly Burns, John Skidmore and Brooke Posch — has an enviable track record of scouting new voices and executing stylish shows on a less-than-stratospheric budgets. The [...]

  • Variety New Leaders in TV

    Late Night Execs and Content Producers Among Variety's New Leaders in TV

    Every year, Variety seeks to identify the next generation of leaders in the entertainment business, looking for representatives in the creative community, film, TV, music and digital. This year’s group has a heavy New York focus: We selected executives from forward thinking companies such as Spotify, Group Nine and Endeavor Audio, as well as writers [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content