BBC Continues Drama Push With Fantasy Mini Series Based on Bestselling Book

BBC Keeps Olympics Through 2020

A week ahead of the opening ceremonies for the 2012 London Olympics, the BBC has signed a deal to ensure it will remain the exclusive U.K. Olympic broadcaster through 2020 at least. The agreement signed with the International Olympic Committee includes U.K. rights across all media platforms, including online and mobile.

BBC One, set to grow primetime ratings for the first time in years, has ordered "Jonathan Strange And Mr Norrell," previously eyed for film treatment.


BBC One continues to expand its event drama slate, announcing three new series for 2013 on Friday.

2012 has been a strong year for BBC One thanks to the London Summer Olympics, the Euro Soccer Championships and the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. Call The Midwife and The Voice U.K. are the biggest new drama and entertainment launches on the channel in over a decade, the broadcaster has also said.

"BBC One is on track to grow its peak-time share for the first time since 2008, and is the biggest channel in both peak and all hours so far this year," the public broadcaster said.

One of the new drama projects is a six-part fantasy mini series based on Susanna Clarke's best-selling book "Jonathan Strange And Mr Norrell." New Line a few years ago acquired movie rights for the novel about a magician and his apprentice that some have hailed as a "Harry Potter" for a more older-skewing audience, but a film never materialized.

The six hour-long episodes will be based on an adaptation by Peter Harness. "Jonathan Strange And Mr Norrell is set during the Napoleonic Wars in an England where magic once existed and is about to return," BBC One said.

"I aim to keep raising the stakes with our drama output on BBC One," said the channel's commissioner Danny Cohen. "We aim to keep working with Britain's very best writers, actors and directors."

Two other new commissions announced Friday are romantic drama The 7.39 from David Nicholls, known for his novel and film One Day, and Cold War spy drama series The Game from Toby Whithouse, the creator of Being Human.

The 7.39, which will have two hour-long episodes, will be produced by NBCUniversal-owned production banner Carnival Films, best-known for producing Downton Abbey. "After fighting for a seat on their morning commute, Sally and Carl begin talking and suddenly their daily train journey becomes a lot more interesting," the description of the project says.

The Game focuses on a secret team of investigators trying to uncover a Soviet plot. Executive producers will be Whithouse, Upstairs DownstairsFaith Penhale and Torchwood‘s Brian Minchin.

BBC One didn't immediately detail any castings and production schedules.

"We plan to maintain our creative momentum in 2013," Cohen said.