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UKTV speeds up US strategy

UKTV has picked up the US remake of supernatural series Being Human from Zodiak Rights as it accelerates its US acquisitions strategy.

The deal is the latest high-profile acquisition for the firm and is part of its multimillion-pound commitment to international purchases.

The US version of Being Human, which is made by Canada’s Muse for cable network Syfy, will launch on flagship general entertainment channel Watch later this year.

The 13 x 60-minute series is based on the BBC3 show about a ghost, a vampire and a werewolf who live together, but transports the action to Boston. There was significant competition for the series and Zodiak Rights has until now held back the sale of the US version to a UK broadcaster to avoid a clash with the British version.

Director of programme acquisitions Catherine Mackin said the show’s BBC origin meant it fitted well with much of Watch’s content. UKTV increased the programming budget for its 10 free-to-air and pay-TV channels to around £75m last year, including commissions and acquisitions.

Controller Emma Tennant said the spending boost has allowed it to challenge for premium studio programming – both buzzy cable series and high-profile network dramas. UKTV is the home of four of the top 10 cable dramas in the US, according to Nielsen ratings figures, including Suits, The Closer, Rizzoli & Isles and Perception.

It has also picked up big-ticket US series including NBC midseason crime thriller Do No Harm, The CW procedural Beauty And The Beast and JJ Abrams’ cancelled prison drama Alcatraz.

“We’ve made a big investment in content and part of that is competing more strongly on acquisitions. We need things that stand out and provide us with a level of exclusivity,” she said.

Tennant said she believed UKTV could provide a more devoted home for US series than other UK networks, and made a veiled dig at Sky.

“We’ve got a great ability in tracking strong US content and the range of channels we have means we have a home for these shows rather than them being just cannon fodder. We look after these shows more than other channels would do,” she said.

Comedy ambition

With the LA Screenings just over three months away, Tennant, Mackin and their team are already tracking series in development and will take a minimum of four acquisitions execs to Los Angeles in May.

The pair are looking closely at comedy as the next step in the channel’s evolution and are hunting for a series that can sit alongside its US legal comedy drama Suits. Tennant said: “Suits could definitely use a companion piece. It’s an ambition we’d like to fill but it’s about finding the right show. It’s probably for Dave and it’s got to have the right sensibility – it needs a sharpness, rather than being too broad.”

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