Written by TV

And What Is Andy Duncan On About?

Channel 4’s Chief Executive, Andy Duncan, has been appearing in front the House of Commons culture, media and sport select committee.
He’s been complaining about the BBC buying acquired – that is to say, American – programming.
C4 was outbid for the 13 episode Harper’s Island, which is still to air here.
That may be so, but overall his argument really doesn’t hold water. The BBC’s acquired programming basically comprises of Heroes, Mad Men, Damages, Medium, The Wire, and Family Guy.
Damages and Mad Men had no competing bids when they were acquired. And Heroes was first picked up by the SciFi channel in the UK. That means they got it for relative peanuts. The BBC came in later and bought terrestrial rights with no competitors at that point.
The Wire has been run in full by FX, and been available on DVD for some time. Was C4 really going to bid now?
I suspect that only Family Guy might have had some competition.
Of course, as shows become popular, then others are interested (see my last post), but that’s not really the BBC’s fault.
C4 outbid the BBC for both The Simpsons and Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Although Duncan says foreign acquisitions, he really means American. Because if BBC Four didn’t show Spiral, the Swedish version of Wallander or the Inspector Montalbano shows we had before Christmas, you can be certain C4 won’t be (once upon a time it did run foreign shows!).
The US distributors wouldn’t like the market distorted. And as the BBC has already said when C4 came at this before, only 1.5% of its programming is acquired.
In fact – and I’m sure Duncan knows this – the competitors for acquired programming are Five, Sky One, ITV’s digital channels as well as secondary channels like Virgin 1, FX et al. Lost started out on C4 after all, but they couldn’t afford both it and Desperate Housewives at the same time.
If I thought C4 treated the imports it has had with more respect then I might have more time for them. But they’re run in the small hours if at all when the channel loses interest in them. Why doens’t The Big Bang Theory run at 10.00pm on a Friday night for example?
The idea that C4 would have bought The Wire at this late stage is laughable. I’m still bitter from the fact that the channel stopped showing David Simon’s earlier series, Homicide: Life on the Street before the series ended. It took Hallmark to air those last episodes first. E4 was the first channel to show The Corner – Simon’s mini-series that predates The Wire. But they buried it. FX is showing it now, with much more gusto!
Acquired programming has a place on Channel 4 like it does everywhere else, but if they hadn’t paid so much more to Jamie Oliver and Heston Blumenthal than they’d been getting at the BBC, and not spent quite so much money on the overblown and very-long-in-the-tooth Big Brother, they might be able to make a US acquisition work well for them.
Maybe they could have bought the fun HBO vampire series True Blood. But they let FX get that.
As far as I know, nobody’s showing Friday Night Lights in the UK.
I’ve just started watching DVDs of the excellent HBO show In Treatment. No UK channel has picked this up, and it must surely be pretty cheap. Writing aside, the cast is either two or three people for each episode, and there’s a single set. Series 1 had 42 episodes. It’d work beautifully on More4.
I’ve not seen Eastbound & Down, the new HBO Will Ferrell comedy, but surely a UK channel’s interested?
Better Off Ted, a new ABC sitcom, is showing promise. It has no UK home that I know of.
Southland, the new NBC cop drama, sounds a little out of the ordinary and has a strong cast and comes from John Wells who made ER. No UK interest so far.
Showtime’s United States of Tara comes from Diablo Cody who wrote Juno, has Steven Spielberg as Executive Producer, and stars Toni Collette. Why is it not on UK screens?
Oh, and FX has just let its contract to buy The Colbert Report lapse. Can someone please buy this for me. Otherwise I just have to go looking elsewhere.
Loads of US programming. None of it – to the best of my knowledge – yet acquired by a UK station. And Duncan moans that he couldn’t get Harper’s Island which is only going to run for 13 episodes as a closed series anyway. Everything else I’ve mentioned here is certainly aiming to be a repeating series. And that’s what C4 wants.
Except they seemingly have no cash to buy a series this year anyway. So I’m not sure what the complaint is.
The Stage had a great piece on all this earlier in the year.