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by Aaron Dobbs
September 5, 2013 11:03 AM
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Why Its UK Influence Has Allowed BBC America to Be Ahead of the Curve as a 'Very Auteur-Oriented Channel'

'Luther'

Since you had this built-in brand and all the BBC and UK programming was new to America, what prompted the move into more homegrown original programming, as opposed to simple acquisitions or even BBC co-productions? Do you envision your original slate growing in the next few years?

We embarked on the strategy because the BBC does have a commitment to growing the channel here in the U.S., and I think we've all seen over the past decade or two that the way cable channels grow is by developing signature original programming that brings them to that next level of attention. "Copper" became the first on the scripted side, and "Orphan Black" was the second. We are going to continue to add to the slate and we have a number of projects in the works that we're considering for the next round of originals. It is our strategy to keep building.

What is BBC America's relationship with its BBC siblings? Most of your programming comes from there and obviously the channel possessed this built-in brand from the outset before it produced or co-produced anything. 

We've been doing this for a long time with the BBC so it's become second-nature now in terms of the intersection between the programming that's produced for the UK and the programming that also makes sense to bring over to the U.S. As we work even more actively with them in the co-production space, that dialogue is more vibrant than ever.

'Atlantis'

The BBC primarily serves the UK audience; BBC America is designed to speak to the American audience, but through the BBC voice. It's very much a collaboration. 

Do you and your creative staff collaborate creatively on the co-productions throughout the development and production process?

Yes, we do. On shows like "The Musketeers" and "Atlantis," we start working with them quite early in the process in order to support them and develop those intersections that suit both our audiences.

Your first two original series have been successful both critically and with audiences, but "Orphan Black" seems to have truly surpassed expectations. Why do you think it developed such a fervent following so quickly?

It's just breakthrough television. You've never seen a show where one actress plays six different characters the way Tatiana does, and that's the reason she's getting all this incredible awards attention with the TCA Critics Choice and Young Hollywood [awards]. It's because she's a brilliant actress, and she is able to demonstrate her talents in a unique concept and vehicle.

It seems like both "Doctor Who" and BBC America received boosts when the channel took over airing the series a few years ago, but the rebooted series' first four seasons had been playing in the U.S., and the original shows aired on PBS stations with a small but dedicated following in the 1980s. Why do you think "Doctor Who" has suddenly exploded in popularity now, and so much more so than during its original incarnation?

I think it's a combination of things. First of all, the show is not just reaching new levels of excitement and fan reach in the U.S., but globally as well. More and more people are discovering it and on a generational basis. One generation grew-up on it and now they're passing on that excitement to a new generation. 

When it came over to BBC America a few years ago, it became a major corporate priority for us to increase the profile of "Doctor Who," and we've been very aggressive in getting out there from a marketing standpoint and making people aware of the show; helping them find it and sample it.

'Top Gear'

Ultimately, it's the show itself. I mean, the show has been absolutely brilliantly executed, and I think it's fresh and different. There's a lightness and a spirit to it that is so unique. That's what gives me such great joy being associated with the show. It's truly family viewing, and yet it's very smart. It plays to an adult audience as well as it plays to a younger audience. It's just been firing on all cylinders creatively, and I think the world is looking for fanciful escapist programs that also have an intelligence to them. 

You made a choice two years ago to broadcast "Doctor Who" on the same dates as it premiered in the UK, but that seems to still be the exception rather than the rule. Why not offer more same-day broadcasts worldwide for everything?

There are logistical things that come into play, but suffice it to say we look to air as close to the UK as we can. "Top Gear" now airs more closely than it ever has before. "The Graham Norton Show" airs more closely than it ever did before. It's always our goal to do that, but sometimes there are some logistical issues that make it a bit a tricky.

And all I can tell you is mark your calendar for November 23 because ["An Adventure in Space and Time" airing on] the 50th Anniversary "Doctor Who" is going to be incredible.

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