What’s Sky One Up To?

Broadcast magazine has a story about Sky One (or should that be Sky 1?) trying to lure Harry Hill from ITV1 to its channel with his BAFTA winning TV Burp.
ITV has the series signed up for the autumn and winter, but beyond that I guess that negotiations remain open with indepedent producer Avalon.
The story goes on to say that the channel tried to get the third series of Gavin and Stacey! I find it incredible that they’d have even had a chance to get that. Although it’s made by indie, Baby Cow, it’s surely a BBC TV show as much as anything.
Similarly, ITV has shown great support for TV Burp over the years, sticking with the show when ratings weren’t perhaps as strong as they might have been. Now it’s a storming success for the channel – and unmissable TV.
In the past Sky One’s taken imported shows that first became hits on free-to-air channels and plucked them off as their value increases. So Channel 4 let Lost go, 24 went from BBC2, and Five lost Prison Break. Most recently House has left Five to move to Sky One. I don’t know how much of that was Five not wanting to pay top dollar for the fifth season, and how much was it just trying to save cash by sticking with the newer and less tested Mentalist. Channels can do life of series deals to guarantee that they don’t get
If I was making a popular comedy show like Harry Hill or Gavin and Stacey, I’d think very carefully before going to the relative backwaters of Sky. Kids won’t be repeating your catchphrases in the playground if your audience is close to one million than ten million.
Remember when Harry Enfield went to Sky? Harry Enfield’s Brand Spanking New Show didn’t help Enfield’s career greatly, and it’s only recently that his mainstream sketch shows have proved popular again with Harry and Paul. That didn’t work too well did it? And Sky gave Al Murray a go with Time Gentleman Please. It ran for a couple of series and did better – but at least Sky was producing a new show.
To think that back in 1985, there was outrage when Thames Television did a deal with the prodcuers of Dallas to outbid the BBC for the series. Such was the outrage at the time, both within the BBC and in other ITV companies, that the BBC held back episodes it already purchased and promised to run them opposite Thames’ newly purchased episodes. In the end Thames backed down, and Dallas remained on the BBC.
Getting back to Sky One, the Broadcast story has a quote from a Sky spokesperson saying that they strive “to provide our customers with the best content. We continue to invest in programming and are examining a number of high-profile programmes that have a natural fit with Sky 1.”
Creating new programming is great. Their big budget stuff like Skellig shown over Easter, is fine programming to be encourage. Ross Kemp’s Afghanistan trips are very good too. And picking up programmes, particularly imports, is fine – although I think that hijacking proven popular successes is just lazy.
Every so often, somebody at Sky will liken the channel to HBO or at least draw parallels between the two. But you can’t imagine HBO picking off The Mentalist or CSI from CBS because they’d proved popular (it couldn’t happen anyway, because you can imagine that contracts with the networks are pretty water-tight). There are instances of programmes in the US moving between networks – most recently Scrubs. But that’s more a question of a series not being wanted by one network, and wanted by another.
Create a few must-see programmes, and the audience will follow.