BBC Worldwide Executive: U.K. Drama Can Be 'Alternative to U.S. Fare'


"Audiences recognize the quality of British dramas for their high production values, unique British culture and humor," says the company's president of global markets as it touts growing content sales in Asia and beyond.

LONDON – BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the U.K. public broadcaster, on Monday unveiled a latest raft of drama sales around the world and touted its growing content sales, particularly in Asia.

The latest patch of programming deals, covering more than 670 hours of content, include such hit dramas as Sherlock, Atlantis, Luther, Call the Midwife, Death in Paradise season 3 and A Young Doctor’s Notebook, starring Daniel Radcliffe and Jon Hamm.

The company made the announcement at the annual BBC Worldwide Showcase that takes place in Liverpool through Wednesday without providing financial details. At the event, a record 725 foreign buyers are screening content from the BBC and independent producers from the U.K.

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BBC Worldwide is the largest distributor of TV programming outside of the U.S., and the Showcase is known as the largest TV content sales event in the world that is organized by a single company.

"In the last five years, and more recently in Asia, we’ve seen a significant increase in sales of British drama overseas, partly fueled by the overwhelming success of titles such as Doctor Who and Sherlock," said Paul Dempsey, president of global markets at BBC Worldwide. "Buyers are realizing that U.K. content can really provide an alternative to U.S. fare as audiences recognize the quality of British dramas for their high production values, unique British culture and humor, as well as the creative ideas."

The growing demand for U.K. content in Asia recently saw China become the third country, after the U.K. and Russia, to premiere the third season of Sherlock, starring Benedict Cumberbatch. Chinese online video giant Youku, for one, got 49 million hits for the first episode on Jan. 2, according to BBC Worldwide. 

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In other recent program licensing deals in Asia, Japan’s Wowow has acquired season one of A Young Doctor’s Notebook, Fleming, starring Dominic Cooper as James Bond creator Ian Fleming, and the third season of detective series DCI Banks. Meanwhile, Japanese state broadcaster NHK has bought season 3 of Sherlock.

KBS in South Korea has acquired Atlantis, while Hong Kong's main terrestrial broadcaster TVB has bought A Young Doctor’s Notebook.

BBC Worldwide also announced drama sales to the likes of Australia's Foxtel, whose Fox8 channel will air Atlantis, France's D8 (Call the Midwife), Italian media tycoon's Mediaset (Sherlock, The Paradise, Call The Midwife), Italy's RAI (Luther), Russia’s Domashny (Ripper Street, The Paradise, Luther), Turkey’s NTV (Atlantis), Israel's Hot (Fleming, Sherlock) and Al Jazeera Children’s Channel in the Mideast (Doctor Who season 8 and other Doctor Who content).

Twitter: @georgszalai