BBC Worldwide Gears Up for Annual Program Showcase

12:25 PM PST 02/22/2013 by Georg Szalai
Gabriel Byrne in "Quirke"

A record number of buyers registered for the event that starts on Oscar Sunday proves continued global interest in shows from the BBC and British indies.

LONDON -- While most stars will be in Hollywood for the Academy Awards on Sunday, Chris O'Dowd will be in Liverpool, England.

The port city best known as the home of the Beatles will for the second year in a row host the BBC Worldwide Showcase, the British broadcaster's equivalent of the L.A. Screenings and the largest TV content sales event in the world organized by a single company.

And if the record 700-plus international buyers registered for the event in Liverpool -- a couple of hours by train from London -- are any indication, the showcase will prove that BBC programs remain popular export products despite recent BBC scandals and controversies.

In the showcase's 37th year, BBC Worldwide, the U.K. public broadcaster's commercial arm, will once again let them screen shows, attend panel discussions and socialize at evening events.

The company is the largest seller of TV content outside of the U.S. and uses the event as a venue for more in-depth sales talks than is possible at the MIPTV or MIPCOM markets.

Steve Macallister, president & managing director, sales & distribution for BBC Worldwide, told The Hollywood Reporter that the annual showcase typically brings in about $76 million (£50 million) in programming sales. That is some 20 percent of its annual program sales.

"Legend is it started above a pub in Brighton with two men, a projector and a box of tapes," he quipped. "Now we have hundreds of digi booths with comfortable chairs and headphones and 2,800 hours of content. Clients love being away from the office and wallowing in our content."

The star-studded Sunday evening with the likes of O'Dowd, who will be promoting comedy Moone Boy, will wrap up the showcase's first day. Monday evening will feature an Africa-themed event tied to David Attenborough's BBC documentary series Africa. The showcase runs through Wednesday; the big evening send-off event Tuesday night is a 50th anniversary celebration of evergreen sci-fi drama franchise Doctor Who.

With an increase in attendance from 640 last year, Macallister again expects more buyers from key growth markets. "They are flying to Britain in the middle of winter," he said. "The last couple of years, the growth has come from the Asian markets and digital buyers, where we have been pushing."

Last year, one showcase day was dedicated to digital, but this year, digital will be part of the whole event. "Digital is now part of the mainstream business," the BBC Worldwide executive said. "All our clients are interested in digital. Some work for SVOD platforms, but any mainstream broadcaster also is interested in digital exploitation these days."

Asked about shows and content that are expected to sell well this year, Macallister said: "We will feature a lot of new dramas with international talent. The drama slate generally is looking very, very strong."

BBC Worldwide is also repping international rights for shows from independent producers that air on other major U.K. broadcasters, including ITV, BSkyB, Channel 4 and Channel 5.

BBC hits Call the Midwife and Ripper Street, Starz's Da Vinci’s Demons and Jane Campion's Top of the Lake will be among the shows that BBC Worldwide will push, as are Sky Arts miniseries A Young Doctor's Notebook with Daniel Radcliffe and Jon Hamm and long-established BBC hits such as Top Gear.

While the BBC has made headlines with the Jimmy Savile scandal in recent months, Macallister says the BBC brand is alive and well on the international show sales circuit.

"Showcase is a great British export success," he told THR. "A big draw is the BBC brand. It is a hallmark brand of quality in international television."

The showcase also attracts many independent producers. More than 30 percent of British indies' revenue last year is estimated to have come from international distribution deals. Said Macallister: "So, the Showcase is hugely important for the British TV industry overall."

E-mail: Georg.Szalai@THR.com

Twitter: @georgszalai

comments powered by Disqus