Now with a footprint of more than 77 mln homes, BBC America has recently moved into original programming with unscripted spinoff series “No Kitchen Required” and “Richard Hammond’s Crash Course.” And in August, it launches its first scripted original drama called “Copper,” set in 1860s New York in the immigrant community of Five Points. In Monday’s issue of CableFAX Daily, Perry Simon, gm, Channels, BBC Worldwide Americas, BBCA spoke about the net’s originals strategy. Here he discusses the advantages of co-productions and its “best of British” programming.
Your first original drama, “Copper,” premieres Aug 19. How were you involved in production? It’s actually produced by Cineflex Studios but we commissioned it, and we are really the lead network as opposed to these other co-productions where the lead network might be the BBC or another UK channel and then we come in as a co-producer. In the case of “Copper,” it was developed and commissioned here at BBC America specifically for our audience.
What are some of the advantages of being the lead network in a co-production?
I think it gives us a great creative voice in the storytelling, the casting and all the creative and marketing aspects of the show. It enables us to customize something specifically for our audience.
How do you choose which BBC series to run on BBCA?
We try to align it with our audience. We have a very distinct audience, very upscale—actually the most affluent audience in all of cable television—actually in all of television. Sometimes we like to refer to our audience as “people with passports.” They’re very worldly. So we really look for the programming that we think suits the audience’s sensibilities.
We also premiered “Planet Earth” on BBC America for the first time with its original narrator [with] uncut versions that have never been seen before. And then [we did] a series of specials….You know these specials are really an important part of our strategy. We do our own specials around the “Top Gear” franchise, around “Dr. Who,” which is our highest rated show, the “Planet Earth” specials….The feeling is, we’ve got these very popular brands, and let’s find ways to extend the brands and give the fans even more of what they already love.
Will you continue to roll out HD?
Yes, as an objective it’s very important for us to continue to build out our HD distribution, particularly with the kind of quality of shows that we’re doing—they deserve to be seen in full HD glory.