LA SCREENINGS: Once known for their stable of BBC repeats, the 10 channels that comprise pay-TV firm UKTV’s portfolio are pushing further into US acquisitions.Emma Tennant, controller of UKTV, is heading to the LA Screenings this weekend, hoping to fill gaps in her schedules left by the cancelled Fox drama Alcatraz, which is currently airing on UKTV’s entertainment channel Watch.
That’s not to say the network hasn’t found success with its US programming strategy. Shark Tank and Suits run on comedy net Dave, while Grimm airs on Watch and both Body of Proof and Castle can be found on crime-skewing Alibi.
“In the last few years there has been a move into acquisitions and commissioning across a number of UKTV channels,” Tennant tells C21. “The network across all 10 channels is doing really well and part of it has been driven by this strategy. Things like Grimm, Suits, Alcatraz and Hart of Dixie have all played into that, as well as commissions on Dave and [factual channel] Yesterday.
“Moving forward, while BBC programming is incredibly important for us, we need shows that will stand out on our channels, get some levels of exclusivity and say something about our channel brands.”
With US dramas such as Alcatraz airing alongside magician Dynamo, Watch is gathering a reputation as a place for out-of-the-ordinary shows and will carry the second season of detective series Grimm.
“We’re very disappointed Alcatraz has been cancelled; it was a really big success for us with 1.1 million consolidated ratings every week,” explains Tennant, who offers sympathy for a show that was in the US scheduled against talent juggernaut The Voice. “So we’ll need something to replace that, something that can also back up the out-of-the-ordinary proposition that is now the backbone of the channel.”
Over on Alibi, Body of Proof, Rizzoli & Isles, Castle and Canadian coproduction Murdoch Mysteries all “helped define the brand and brought it into a more 16-34 space than other crime brands are,” says Tennant.
Tennant and her team in LA will also be looking for new shows for Dave, if a show can prove to be a suitable companion piece for Suits, while Really is in the market for a series in the same vein as Hart of Dixie.
“It’s mainly drama we’re looking for,” says Tennant. “There seems to be a lot of comedy so we’ll have to see. Comedy-drama can work well for us, if you think of Suits, which has that comedic slant. We’ve got a fairly open mind. Alibi tends to look for procedural crime stuff and we need something for Watch that fits that out-of-the-ordinary proposition.”