UKTV’s entertainment networks – including, Dave, Watch, GOLD, Yesterday and Alibi – reach over 30 million UK viewers a month with a foundation of content from the BBC. Now, according to UKTV’s director of entertainment Christian Drobnyk, UKTV is acquiring over a thousand hours of exclusive content and commissioning about 750 a year.
‘Increasingly our programming strategy was about having a mixed economy of content, which was favorite BBC series as well as having press-worthy exciting premiere content,’ says Drobnyk. He gave Scream if You Know the Answer on Watch as an example of the latter. The half-hour game show, produced by Lion TV, sees contestants and a celebrity answer questions while on a rollercoaster.
The game show/theme park hybrid series is also an example of how UKTV is bringing well-known talent to original formats in order to help raise the profile of the brands, he adds.
Drobnyk also says that he’s looking for self-contained primetime formats to commission for Watch, along the lines of factual entertainment series Four Weddings and Undercover Boss. So far UKTV has acquired series such as World’s Strictest Parents (the U.S, Australian and UK versions) and the network is looking at developing self-contained episodic series of its own.
Watch is currently exploring magic as an untapped area for content, and they recently announced a development deal for Art of Astonishment with ‘hip hop’ magician Dynamo, produced by Phil McIntyre Entertainment. Drobnyk says the series will bring a new approach to magic, and is set to air on Watch in 2011.
He adds that besides the incentive of format purchasing, UKTV is also up for co-financing between a distributor and a U.S. network.
Moving on to Dave, comedy is at the core of the brand and UKTV is looking to expand on factual entertainment. ‘We’re aggressively looking at the ‘ingenuity under pressure’ area for Dave, so I think there’s something in that space that we’re going to be developing in launching original series,’ he says.
UKTV is also looking for character-driven docusoaps for Dave, such as the recently-announced Butchered, a docusoap which Drobnyk describes as Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels meets a butcher shop.
‘One of the things I’m trying to urge U.S. producers to do is to think of us as a place that they can come to sell an idea,’ says Drobnyk. ‘If we produce it with a UK producer, it works to the advantage of the U.S. company because they have a pilot [to] sell back into the U.S. as a format.’
Drobnyk encourages producers of factual entertainment to have Watch and Dave on their radar. ‘Those two networks have a lot of light and shade in terms of not only programming content, but deal-making opportunities and I think most importantly, engaging the factual community on the factual entertainment side. The factual entertainment space is just exploding and we see that as a key area for us.’