BBC First Unveils Programming Ahead of August Launch

9:28 AM PST 03/27/2014 by Pip Bulbeck
"Burton and Taylor"

The Australian launch will be the first for the British premium drama channel worldwide.

SYDNEY -- Recent hit BBC series The Musketeers, The Politician's Husband, Peaky Blinders and the Helena Bonham Carter starrer Burton and Taylor will take center stage in the schedule when BBC Worldwide and Foxtel launch premium drama channel BBC First, in Australia in August.

The new channel will also try "stacking" some shorter-run series, allowing viewers to binge-watch episodes back-to-back, while also fast-tracking key shows for Australian viewers.

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Other series on the channel's lineup will include Quirke, a drama full of mystery, secrets and intrigue co-written by Andrew Davies, starring Gabriel Byrne as a consultant pathologist in a 1950s Dublin city morgue; The Game, a spy thriller starring Brian Cox and set in the Cold War, where enemies and allies can't always be separated; Derek, season two of Ricky Gervais' bittersweet comedy drama about a group of outsiders living on society's margins; and Alan Partridge's two new mockumentaries Welcome to the Places of My Life and On Open Books With Martin Bryce, starring Steve Coogan.

While unveiling the lineup at an industry event in Sydney, BBC Worldwide Australia CEO Jon Penn said there was "no pressure" from BBC executives, who are intently watching the global premiere of the channel from Down Under. The broadcasting company has plans to roll the channel out to other territories worldwide, as announced by the British broadcaster in October.

Looking ahead, 2015 will see the launch of the channel's first local commission: U.K.-Australian convict drama Banished, from Jimmy McGovern and See Saw Films. Banished goes into production next month in Sydney. New seasons of returning series such as Call the Midwife and New Tricks will premiere for the first time on BBC First, with free-to-air viewers having to wait a year to see the new episodes. New seasons of hit dramas and comedies will premiere on the channel as soon as possible after their U.K. premieres.

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"The BBC has always been pioneering, and the launch of BBC First in Australia continues in this spirit, offering something totally unique to the market. For the first time in Australia, all the very best new British dramas and comedies will be available in one place, giving viewers the opportunity to indulge and immerse themselves in world-class creativity," Penn said.

Richard Freudenstein, Foxtel chief executive added, "The partnership between Foxtel and the BBC marks a significant milestone in Australian television. BBC First will enable our customers to see every major new BBC series first on Foxtel. This further consolidates our brilliant offering for subscribers and our pledge to bring the best television from around the world to Foxtel homes."

BBC First joins existing BBC channels -- UKTV, BBC Knowledge, CBeebies and BBC World News -- on the Foxtel platform, as part of the drama and films tier from August. UKTV will move to the basic tier as a result. It will also be available on Foxtel GO and in high definition.

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