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LONDON — BBC1 is calling time on U.S. series acquisitions. Incoming channel head Danny Cohen said Wednesday that high prices and new scope for transatlantic co-productions meant that buying big Hollywood series was off his agenda.
“We don’t have big plans to invest. We still want big movies for Christmas and Easter, but we don’t have big plans to invest in series,” he said.
Cohen, who said he would not be going to the L.A. screenings, said that bidding against pay-tv giant BSkyB’s financial muscle often meant that rivals could not compete.
“Costs are very high across acquisitions. Sky’s buying power can be very decisive. You can see that with the way the outbid [the BBC] for Mad Men and with how much they paid for Boardwalk Empire, which was very expensive,” he said.
His comments come as a reduced commitment to U.S. fare from other U.K. broadcasters like ITV and Channel 4 means that terrestrial primetime is virtually a no-go area for glossy American shows like House and Lost — which built their following on network TV before being snapped up by digital channels.
Speaking at a lunch hosted by the Broadcasting Press Guild, Cohen said the BBC was exploring new partnerships in the mold of it’s deal to co-produce the new series of it’s existing sci-fi drama Torchwood with Starz. The new drama will air this summer on both sides of the Atlantic and will be made by BBC Worldwide’s U.S. production division headed by Jane Tranter.
“We have done co-pros before, the area you see it most is in costume drama where we’ve worked with WGBH. But the model with Starz feels very different to me. It’s a very interesting experiment and I want to see how it turns out.”
In a separate development the BBC appointed George Entwistle to the post of head of BBC Vision, the pubcasters television operations. Entwistle, who currently heads the BBC’s knowledge and education divisions, replaces Jana Bennet, who last year moved to a senior role at BBC Worldwide.