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Viacom’s Channel 5 Makes Major U.K. Drama Move

Having decided to jettison reality series “Big Brother,” Britain’s Channel 5 is pushing deeper into the U.K. drama business, with a slate of new scripted titles including a prison drama, a crime thriller and a murder mystery. The free-to-air network has traditionally concentrated on unscripted and entertainment, complemented by a lineup of acquired drama, much of it hailing from from the U.S.

Channel 5 has now made its biggest move into scripted under the ownership of Viacom, which bought the free-to-air broadcaster in 2014. It includes a three-year deal with production and distribution group Kew Media, which will sell several of the new shows internationally.

The drama slate is headed by “Clink,” a female prison drama aimed at the sought-after young adult audience. It will play on Channel 5’s 5Star channel. British indie LA Productions is making the 10-parter, which will bow in 2019.

Crime thriller “15 Days” is also scheduled for 2019. It starts with a brutal murder and then rewinds the events of the previous days to detail what happened and why. It is an English-language version of Welsh drama “35 Days” and co-funded by ITV Studios, which will handle distribution.

There will also be another feature-length murder mystery, after last year’s adaptation of Agatha Christie’s “Crooked House.” The as-yet-untitled project will be based on a real-life murder case from the 1920s. Endemol Shine-owned shingle Darlow Smithson (“Touching the Void”) is producing.

The new shows will sit alongside the previously announced revenge thriller “Cold Call” and “Blood,” the Adrian Dunbar-starrer that Channel 5 has now acquired. The latter is from “Shameless” producer Company Pictures.

Channel 5 has freed up a chunk of programming money by letting go of Endemol Shine-owned format “Big Brother” in the U.K. “We thought the time was right to take the next step, and that included taking that ‘Big Brother’ money, essentially, and spending it on original commissions,” Viacom boss Bob Bakish said.

Channel 5 will “continue to overhaul our schedule from top to bottom,” said programming boss Ben Frow. He added: “Homegrown drama is the missing ingredient from Channel 5’s schedules, so it is genuinely exciting to be able to unveil a range of new projects from such an array of talented producers.”

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