BBC America plays new theme

Ancier makes his mark with primetime sked overhaul

BBC Worldwide America's new chief Garth Ancier has put his stamp on BBC America, announcing Monday a major scheduling overhaul that will see the network's primetime programming grouped into themed blocks that target specific demos.

Ancier — the former WB Network chairman who in February was named president of BBC Worldwide America, overseeing the BBC's U.S. businesses — said Monday that the network's new schedule, which debuts in June, will focus on contemporary British programming and also put a greater emphasis on news. The new schedule is designed to appeal to viewers and advertisers, he added.

"Essentially what we did with the schedule was to really get back to what BBC is really good at — news and contemporary programming — and we did that by creating a very constant schedule across the board and theming each night so people know exactly what to expect every night on BBC America," Ancier said.

In primetime, each night will feature themed blocks from 8-10 p.m. It marks the first time for the network to have such "clearly defined" programming blocks.

"Murder Mondays" will showcase psychological thrillers like the BBC America co-production "Wire in the Blood" as well as a new season of "Murphy's Law."

"Tuesday Nitro" targets the male demo with action dramas, including such scripted series as "MI-5" and "Ultimate Force" as well as reality TV programming.

"Wicked Wednesday" targets female viewers with such shows as "Footballers' Wives," featuring Joan Collins as a new cast member; "Hotel Babylon"; the BBC America co-production "Goldplated," a darkly comic family saga; and the drama "Sinchronicity."

"It wasn't lost on me as a programmer that Wednesday was one of the nights where 'Dynasty' did play very well, and 'Footballers' Wives' has elements of that show — it even has ('Dynasty's') Joan Collins," Ancier said.

"Big Thursday" centers on what BBC America called "huge characters with larger-than-life personalities," ranging from chef Gordon Ramsay ("Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares," "Gordon Ramsay's F Word") to TV personality Graham Norton ("The Graham Norton Show").

"Crime Scene Friday" revolves around procedural crime, forensic and legal dramas, including the BBC America co-productions "Whistleblower" and "The Innocence Project" as well as new seasons of the returning forensic series "Silent Witness" and "Waking the Dead."

"Supernatural Saturday" centers on science fiction programming and shows featuring paranormal events, including the BBC America co-production "Jekyll," a modern-day retelling of the classic tale, and "Doctor Who" spinoff "Torchwood," as well as new seasons of returning series "Life on Mars," "Hex" and "Doctor Who."

Sundays will feature the "Brit Movie" preceded at 7 p.m. by "Adventure Sunday," focusing on action dramas targeting families, including a new season of "Robin Hood," BBC America's top-rated show, and "Wild at Heart."

At 10 p.m. weeknights, BBC America is hoping to lure younger viewers with the soap "Hollyoaks," which centers on a group of college kids. At 10 p.m. Saturdays, "Comedy Saturday" will feature such shows as the BBC America co-production "The Life and Times of Vivienne Vyle," written by and starring Jennifer Saunders ("Absolutely Fabulous"), along with exclusive stand-up specials. Sundays at 10 p.m. will be the "BBC America Reveals" weekly documentary slot.

Ancier noted that BBC America also is putting a greater emphasis on its news coverage. BBC World News will air a three-hour news block each weekday morning from 6-9 a.m. ET and weeknights at 7 p.m. ET (which recently moved from 6 p.m.). It's understood that BBC America might be considering expanding the morning news block.

"When you really think about it, BBC has by far the largest newsgathering organization in the world in television, and to not highlight that would be a real shame," Ancier said. "There's a huge appetite out there for an outside view of news."

In daytime, BBC America strips lifestyle programs and game shows, including "Masterchef Goes Large," "The Weakest Link" and "How Clean Is Your House?"

So far in the first quarter, BBC America, which is in more than 54 million homes, is up 7% in primetime and 9% in total day in adults 25-54 compared with a year ago.