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Britannia Awards discovers jolly-good TV home

Britannia Awards 2012

“There’s never been a better time to be British in Hollywood,” says BBC Worldwide America general manager of channels Perry Simon.

It’s true. British glamour has not been lost on Hollywood, as it’s been sucking up the international spotlight with such high-profile events as Prince William’s royal wedding to Kate Middleton, the queen’s diamond jubilee and the London Olympics. Meanwhile, shows such as PBS’ “Downton Abbey” and “Sherlock” and BBC America’s own “Luther,” “Copper” and “Doctor Who” all have captured American audiences’ fancy.

And now, BBC America will air the very British Britannia Awards for the first time Sunday, as the channel continues to build its brand as the home for the best of all things British in the U.S.

The broadcast includes a half-hour red carpet pre-show and then a two-hour edited telecast of the live event that’s taking place tonight Nov. 7 at the Beverly Hilton.

More like the Kennedy Center Honors than the Emmys or the Golden Globes, the Britannia Awards are pre-ordained. The night’s not full of surprises, but it is full of bright stars.

“This is such a fun event,” says exec director Donald Haber of BAFTA /LA, the event’s organizer. “The awards are very British, and there’s all of this wonderful talent in attendance. We also look for presenters who have strong relationships with the honorees, and that leads to a very emotional and fun event.”

While this is the first time BBC America will air the Britannias, the network is no stranger to awards shows, already broadcasting the BAFTA Awards, which takes place in February, two weeks before the Oscars.

About a year ago, BBC America approached BAFTA/LA about airing the Britannia Awards, which previously could only be seen via webcast or, more recently, on the little-watched TV Guide Channel. BAFTA/LA and BBC America immediately felt it was a great fit. The two partners had previously worked together on the TV Tea Party, which takes place before the Emmy Awards.

“When I came into this job two years ago, I was getting ready to go to my first black-tie function,” Simon says. “After I put on my tuxedo, I reached into my pocket and pulled out a ticket from a past Britannia Awards. That reminded me of what an elegant and fun event the Britannia Awards are.

“They are a perfect fit for our channel. They celebrate the cultural crossover between the U.K. and the U.S., which is exactly what BBC America does.”

This year, the live event will be edited to tape largely because it takes place at 7:30 p.m. on a Wednesday in Los Angeles, making it too late to air live in the rest of the country, particularly the East Coast.

“If we were to do it live, we would need to shift the show to the weekend and move it to earlier in the day,” Simon says. “These are logistical adjustments we plan to consider in the future.”

“It should be a big increase in audience levels,” says Haber, who uses profits from the event to aid BAFTA/LA’s community philanthropy, including scholarships for aspiring filmmakers. “BBC America will promote the show quite a bit and obviously get more viewers than you could on TV Guide Channel. I’m confident we’ll have a strong audience.”

Britannia Awards 2012
John Schlesinger Award – Quentin Tarantino | Stanley Kubrick Award – Daniel Day-Lewis | British Artist of the Year – Daniel Craig | Charlie Caplin Award – Matt Stone & Trey Parker | Albert R. Broccoli Award – Will Wright
Britannia Awards discovers jolly-good TV home

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