PBS has scheduled the eight-week run of the hit English period drama to run through the end of February, Masterpiece executive producer Rebecca Eaton said today during the PBS Annual Meeting. Downton Abbey is the highest-rated drama in PBS history after its third-season finale drew 8.2 million viewers on February 17, a 50% increase from the Season 2 ender. The timeframe for the PBS airdates falls similar to last year, coming after the fall run of the series on ITV in the UK. The big ratings bumps in the U.S. were notable given the high-stakes spoilers that were parading around the Internet while the show was airing across the pond ahead of its U.S. broadcast. ITV doesn’t announce its schedule until a couple of weeks before shows debut, but a September run there is likely again for the Carnival/Masterpiece co-production.
In its second buy into a U.S. production company in less than six months, ITV has acquired a controlling interest in Cake Boss producer High Noon Entertainment. In December Duck Dynasty maker Gurney Productions sold a controlling stake to ITV for $40M. In the High Noon deal, ITV will pay $25.65M upfront for 60% of the company with a further payment in 2015 contingent on High Noon’s performance. In keeping with the way it structures most of its acquisitions deals, ITV also has a put and call option to buy the rest of the company which can be exercised in four-six years.
Britain last night tuned into a sitcom in the same time slot that drama Broadchurch occupied for eight weeks until last Monday. Family Guy and Will & Grace exec producer Gary Janetti’s sitcom Vicious premiered at 9 PM drawing 5.7M …
‘Mr. Selfridge’ Adds Cast For Season Two
Clash Of The Titans actress Polly Walker and The Awakening‘s Cal Macaninch have joined the cast of season two of Mr. Selfridge. The ITV period drama that’s currently airing on PBS Masterpiece has just begun shooting the second season of 10 episodes in London and Kent. Jeremy Piven stars as Harry Selfridge, the American entrepreneur who revolutionized the way women shopped in early 1900s London. Also joining the cast are Killing Bono‘s Aidan McArdle and The Bible‘s Sean Teale. The first season was a ratings winner for ITV in the UK where it aired in the Downton Abbey Sunday night slot. The second season picks up in 1914 as Selfridge’s department store is celebrating its fifth anniversary. As talk of war intensifies, Harry prepares the staff for challenging times ahead. An airdate will be scheduled for next year in order to coincide with the centenary of WWI.
Broadchurch has often been referred to as Britain’s answer to The Killing; it’s also ITV‘s biggest new drama since Downton Abbey. But there are no dinner jackets or Dowagers here. In a reversal of established thinking that period dramas are the major game in town, this contemporary drama has gripped Britain since it debuted in March. ITV has just ordered a second season of the show which concluded its first season on Monday night. Anticipation for that finale episode was so high, it was worthy of “Who shot J.R.?” comparisons. BBC America has U.S. rights to the eight-part murder mystery that stars David Tennant and Olivia Colman at the head of an ensemble cast. The first season’s story explored what happens to a small coastal community when a media frenzy comes to town after a young boy is murdered.
At launch, Broadchurch drew 9.1M viewers for a 31% share and continued to pull strong numbers throughout the run. The mystery surrounding the death of little Danny Latimer kept Britons in thrall until it was resolved in Monday night’s closing episode, and reviews have been largely positive. BBC America will air the series later this year and Shine America holds the format rights in the U.S. Production on season two starts in 2014, although plot details and returning characters are being kept under wraps.
ITV is continuing its acquisitions drive, this time at home in Britain. The company is buying independent producer The Garden for £18M ($27.4M) with a further cash payment contingent on profit performance over the next five years. The Garden was launched in 2010 by BAFTA winners Nick Curwin and Magnus Temple; the duo had previously created Dragonfly, which was later sold to Elisabeth Murdoch’s Shine. In December, ITV acquired a controlling stake in Duck Dynasty makers Gurney Productions for $40M and last year it bought Norwegian production company Mediacircus and Britain’s So Television. The deals form part of its five-year Transformation Plan.
Simon Cowell’s Britain’s Got Talent returned to ITV with much fanfare on Saturday night, beating rival BBC show The Voice UK and causing some controversy in the process. BGT had its second biggest launch in seven years scoring an average 10.5M viewers and peaking at just over 13M. Only the 2010 start was bigger with a 10.6M average.
But two acts have been deemed inappropriate by some in the Twittersphere and by a group that campaigns for family values in the media. The performances in question saw an 11-year-old girl sing the one-night-stand-themed “One Night Only” from Dreamgirls, while a 40-something woman did a semi-striptease and gave Cowell a mini-lapdance. Vivienne Pattison, director of Mediawatch UK, told The Daily Mail that ITV appeared “to have completely ignored” guidelines set up by regulator Ofcom which has warned broadcasters about sexually explicit content ahead of the 9 PM watershed. But an ITV spokesman tells Deadline, “In its seventh series, Britain’s Got Talent celebrates variety and showcases a wide range of different acts. Mindful of our family audience, the performance was carefully edited to ensure it was suitably inexplicit.” Ahead of this weekend’s controversy, an ITV source told me the network chose to air BGT at 7 PM despite a clash with the BBC’s The Voice, because otherwise it “would have had to go late” and risk losing the family audience.
Questions about Simon Cowell‘s participation in the UK version of The X Factor have been mounting since the Season 9 finale hit a six-year low in December. At the time, there were suggestions that the impresario would ride to the rescue of the ITV show he left in 2010, reclaiming his seat on the judging panel. While he will ramp up his involvement this year, I’ve confirmed that he will not be making a full-time return to the program.
Cowell told Hello magazine over the weekend that he is “definitely getting more involved and will have a role in the next series” of The X Factor UK. The show habitually airs in the fall; basically the same time as Fox’s U.S. version, on which he is a judge. There’s been speculation he could somehow do both, but I’m told instead that he’s likely to make timely special appearances.
Downton Abbey‘s third-season opener and closer on Masterpiece Classic strongly outpaced ratings for comparable Season 2 shows — the February 17 finale even beat all of its broadcast and cable competition in primetime. So, it’s no surprise that national household ratings for the entire season were record-breakers. In news that might make even Carson crack a smile, PBS and WGBH said today that a total of 24M viewers tuned in to visit with the Crawley family over seven weeks of Season 3 episodes. That’s a 7M-viewer increase from last year and makes the show PBS’ highest-rated drama ever. The season had a 7.7 average and an average season audience of 11.5M viewers, according to Nielsen Live+7 data. Those figures are up 64% and 65%, respectively, over Season 2. On the UK’s ITV, Season 3 was also the biggest so far and had an overall average of 9.7M viewers.
The figures are notable given the high-stakes spoilers that were parading around the Internet while the show was airing in the UK ahead of its U.S. broadcast. They also set up quite a challenge for Season 4, which is currently shooting with a series of new castmembers — and sans some important ones who ducked out last year.
U.S. broadcasters still want the courts to pull the plug on Aereo, the streaming service that they say violates their copyrights. In a similar fight in the UK, broadcasters ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 today won a victory over TVCatchup.com, a service that streams free-to-air shows from the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Sky. In a landmark ruling, the European Court of Justice said websites that retransmit live TV without permission from the broadcasters are in breach of copyright. The case was spurred by an earlier one brought in London which sought the higher court’s take in 2011. The broadcasters in question alleged, among other things, that TVC’s retransmissions constitute a ‘communication to the public’ which is prohibited both by national law and by an EU Directive. The ECJ today agreed (read the ruling here).
In a statement, the ECJ said today, “EU law seeks to establish a high level of protection for authors of works, allowing them to obtain an appropriate reward for the use of those works including on the occasion of communication to the public. To that end, authors have an exclusive right to authorize or prohibit any communication of their works to the public.” Under a 2001 law, original broadcasters are “authors” of their programming.
Almost three years into its five-year Transformation Plan, the UK’s leading commercial broadcaster ended 2012 with a 13% increase in earnings, despite flat ad revenues. In reporting its full-year results this morning, ITV, whose flagship channel …
BBC Three Orders Reeva Steenkamp Special
Fast-turnaround specialiast Mentorn Media is at it again. The producer has been commissioned by BBC Three for a quickie doc about the murder of Reeva Steenkamp. Steenkamp’s shooting death has been making headlines since she was killed on Valentine’s Day with star athlete Oscar Pistorius accused of murder. He has pleaded not guilty. Nick London is producing and directing for BBC Three. Rick Edwards, who presented Paralympics coverage for Channel 4, will host. Mentorn’s credits include Ricky Gervais’ An Idiot Abroad for Sky and HBO documentary For Neda. It also recently made fast-turnaround docs about Hurricane Sandy and the Aurora, Colorado massacre. Mentorn’s sister company Passion Distribution is handling sales.
Luketic, Former MGM Exec Sutherland Team On Oz Thriller
Los Angeles-based Australian director Alan White is set to direct Reclaim, a psychological thriller about an American couple who come to Australia to adopt a child after their unborn child dies in a car accident. Due to shoot in Oz later this year, the film is the first from a co-venture between U.S.-based Australian director Robert Luketic and Ian Sutherland’s Origin Productions, who will serve as producers with Brian and Josh Etting of L.A.–based Garlin Pictures. Sutherland, a former EVP of international theatrical distribution for MGM, and Luketic have been developing projects for several years. It will be the first Aussie film for White since 2000’s Risk. The screenplay is by Luke Davies (Candy) and Carmine Gaeta. Casting is underway. Arclight Films, which is selling worldwide rights, pitched the project to buyers at the Berlin festival’s European Film Market.- Don Groves
ITV, the UK’s leading commercial web (and home to Downton Abbey) has been the subject of takeover chatter in the past year, but renewed talk set the market abuzz on Friday and today. The stock rose as much as 3.3% in London trading today, after already jumping 3% at the end of last week. Shares closed at 120.3 pence this afternoon. The hikes come as Citigroup put the company on a list of European firms that could become takeover targets or begin share buybacks. Nomura also reiterated its buy recommendation, according to Bloomberg. Liberty Global’s move to acquire Virgin Media in a $23.3B merger earlier this month has fueled takeover talk in the sector and private equity groups are thought to be the most likely suitors in the event of a move on ITV. But, other media groups have been mentioned as potential bidders including RTL, NBC, Mediaset and Time Warner, The Guardian reports. According to The Evening Standard, traders have also suggested ITV could attract interest from TV and music mogul Simon Cowell and retail billionaire Sir Philip Green.
At a PBS TCA panel last month, Mr Selfridge creator Andrew Davies said that while no decision had been made on a second season, he’d already written the first episodes and was “very confident” of a renewal. He had reason to be. ITV today commissioned 10 more hourlong episodes of the period drama that stars Jeremy Piven as entrepreneur and department store revolutionary Harry Selfridge. Shooting starts in April in Greater London and Kent for a 2014 airdate that will coincide with the centenary of World War I. The first season kicks off on PBS next month.
Since launching on ITV in January, the show has a consolidated average audience of 8.5M and drew 9.4M to its peak episode. The second season will be set in 1914, just ahead of the Great War, and will add new castmembers. Also, joining Davies as lead writers will be Kate Brooke (Case Sensitive, Making Of A Lady) and Kate O’Riordan (The Bad Mother’s Handbook, The Kindness Of Strangers).