UKTV is the broadcast joint venture between BBC Worldwide and Scripps Networks Interactive. It recently ordered its first original sitcom You, Me & Them, starring Buffy The Vampire Slayer‘s Anthony Head, and today says it’s moving into drama. Life On Mars creator Tony Jordan‘s Red Planet Pictures is developing the 10-part Legion to air on UKTV’s flagship channel, Watch. Jordan, whose other credits inlcude Death In Paradise and the upcoming By Any Means and The Great War, says he’s been working on Legion for 15 years and calls it his “ultimate passion project.” The story follows a criminologist who makes a deal with the devil to save the life of his 10-year-old daughter who’s suffering from an inoperable brain tumor. When he finds he’s been tricked, he undertakes to renegotiate his contract by fighting the devil’s work on Earth which leads to a revelation that will forever change the world. The UK’s new TV tax credit is making it an attractive production location and Legion producers are talking to potential international co-production partners with an eye to close a deal at next month’s Mipcom TV market.
Britons recently voted a scene from the 1995 adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride And Prejudice as the most memorable TV moment of all time. Therein, Colin Firth‘s Mr. Darcy takes a dip in a lake and then, dripping wet and under-dressed, runs into Jennifer Ehle’s Elizabeth Bennett. In honor of UKTV‘s new Drama channel, the media company has erected a 12-foot statue of Darcy in Hyde Park’s Serpentine lake. The sculptor says Firth’s Darcy was a starting point, but that notes were used from others who’ve portrayed him including Matthew Macfadyen and Laurence Olivier. Still, the end result bears a striking resemblance to the King’s Speech Oscar winner. The statue will eventually settle at Lyme Park in Cheshire, the scene of the Pemberley manor in Pride And Prejudice. The BBC is adapting Death Comes To Pemberley, based on the suspense novel by P.D. James that pays homage to Jane Austen’s iconic characters. Matthew Rhys is playing Darcy. At the time the three-part serial was announced, Rhys said his Darcy would be different from the ones who have gone before, “And also, I don’t have to appear from a lake in a white shirt and breeches.” Video of the original scene is on the next page:
UKTV, the British commercial network co-owned by BBC Worldwide and Scripps Network Interactive, has acquired upcoming midseason drama Do No Harm as part of a content deal with NBCU International Television Distribution. Do No Harm, a medical drama with a Jekyll & Hyde twist, premieres on NBC in the U.S. on January 31 and will debut on UKTV’s flagship channel, Watch, next summer. Multichannel provider UKTV has also acquired future seasons of NBC’s Grimm for Watch and made a long-term committment to multiple season’s of USA’s legal drama Suits for the Dave channel. Grimm pulled in just under 1M viewers per episode during its first season run on Watch. The first season of Suits averaged over 700K viewers per episode and the second season is due on Dave early next year. Both Watch and Dave have had succcessful runs in 2012. Watch has become the fastest growing commercial network in the UK while Dave’s original series Red Dwarf X is the network’s highest rated show, attracting 2.1M viewers to its premiere episode.
Miramax has announced a licensing pact with UKTV which will make Miramax films available on the British broadcaster’s pay and DTT channels. Futher, the studio has made a handful of new staffing appointments ahead of the Mip-TV market that kicks off in Cannes next week. Former MGM exec Mathilde Rottier has been named VP worldwide television with Stuart Shaw joining from Paramount Home Entertainment as director of international sales and marketing. Also, Astrid De Berardinis and Alexandra Tullberg have been appointed directors of sales. Press releases follow:
Scripps Networks Interactive and Virgin Media announced the agreement today. UKTV is one of Britain’s leading multichannel TV programming companies. Scripps Networks will pay about $390M to purchase Virgin Media’s 50% common equity interest in the UKTV partnership and also will pay about $163M to buy the outstanding preferred stock and debt owed by UKTV to Virgin Media. BBC Worldwide is the other 50% stakeholder in UKTV. Completion of the transaction is contingent on regulatory approvals in the Republic of Ireland and Jersey. UKTV is a significant opportunity for Scripps to participate in a thriving multichannel dual-revenue stream media biz in one of the world’s largest television markets, according to Kenneth Lowe, Chairman/President/CEO of Scripps Networks Interactive. “Making a solid investment in UKTV and entering into a strong partnership with BBC Worldwide reinforces our core international strategy which we believe will create significant long-term value for our shareholders.” Related to the transaction, Scripps Networks Interactive and BBC Worldwide are negotiating an agreement whereby, after completion, BBC Worldwide would have the option, via a combination of cash and a package of digital rights for UKTV, to increase its shareholding from 50% to a maximum of 60%. Scripps’ existing voting rights and board representation would be unaffected by this proposed arrangement, which would be subject to BBC Executive and BBC Trust approvals.
The UK’s biggest private broadcaster is expected to announce that it’s taking high-definition versions of spin-off digital channels behind Sky’s pay-wall. Although audiences for HD versions of ITV2, ITV3 and ITV4 are small, CEO Adam Crozier is planting a flag for the future. Eventually all TV channels will be high-definition, which means ITV could become subscription only.
Meanwhile, the Financial Times reports that ITV is interested in buying Virgin Media’s 50% stake in UKTV, the pay-TV channels it runs with BBC Worldwide. UKTV runs 10 channels, including the popular Dave, which repackages recent BBC comedy shows. UKTV made £27.2 million profit in the first six months of 2010. Matthew Horsman of TV consultancy Mediatique envisages ITV putting its best older programmes together with recent BBC output, becoming a “Best of British” offer.
ITV is due to announce its half-year results tomorrow morning. RBS predicts that ITV will have an extra £120 million available to spend on programming on the back of operating profits rising to £156 million ($247 million) compared with just £46 million this time last year. Revenue is expected to have increased 9% to £995 million, says RBS.