Viacom U.K.'s Channel 5 Unveils Drama Push

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Viacom CEO Bob Bakish

The network is moving some of the money saved from not renewing 'Big Brother' and "spending it on original commissions," says Viacom CEO Bob Bakish.

Viacom's Channel 5 in Britain recently decided to not bring back long-running reality hit series Big Brother, instead moving some of the freed-up money into scripted content, particularly dramas, some of which are original fare. 

The network on Wednesday unveiled an acceleration of its push into scripted offerings, announcing it has ordered a female prison drama with the working title Clink and crime thriller 15 Days. It also acquired the U.K. rights to six-part Irish psychological crime thriller Blood.

Entertainment and unscripted fare have long dominated the Channel 5 schedule, along with acquired scripted shows, but it has said it was looking to add more originals, included scripted programming, over time.

Viacom CEO Bob Bakish in London on Wednesday lauded Channel 5 for having grown its audience share since the company acquired it in 2014 and making its viewership younger and more upscale. "The time was right to take the next step, and that included taking that Big Brother money essentially and spending it on original commissions," he added. All this fits into Channel 5's strategy of "continuing to raise its profile."

Clink is a 10-episode series that will air on Channel 5’s 5Star network this year, targeting a young adult audience. And 15 Days, a four-part English-language version of Welsh drama 35 Days, will also air this year. It starts with a murder and then looks back at the events that transpired in the days before. 

"Homegrown drama is the missing ingredient from Channel 5's schedules," said Ben Frow, director of programs at Channel 5. He said he hopes the new shows "give viewers yet another reason to take a fresh look at Channel 5 as we continue to overhaul our schedules from top to bottom.