Eye Candy Needed to Boost British Drama Sales

Written by James MacGregor on . Posted in TV

British TV drama - Not eye catching enough?A BBC Worldwide senior executive has told a media forum that British drama is 'parochial and 'gritty' and will continue to struggle to make overseas sales unless more beautiful people are cast in lead roles.

Colin Jarvis, director of programmes and formats at BBC Worldwide - the UK's biggest distributor, told the UKTV Media Forum UK drama was harder to sell than comedy, factual or entertainment programming. He said: "Do you know what foreigners say about our drama programmes? That they are too gritty and don't have beautiful people in them."

New Tricks - but drama sales overseas are in the doghouseJarvis also said short runs of six or eight episodes stalled sales into the lucrative US market, where 22-episode seasons are normal.

ID Distribution head Sally Miles, whose company doesn't distribute drama,agreed with Jarvis. "The feedback I get is that only about 20% of dramas work well overseas and the rest don't work at all," she said.

Jane Featherstone, Kudos joint managing director has sold its BBC dramas Hustle and Spooks to US networks, said producers should not change the way they make programmes to appeal to overseas audiences. "Drama is very parochial but that's for a reason. I don't think it's a bad thing or something we should change." She added: "It was never our plan to make Spooks a show that would be popular in America."

New research by Oliver and Ohlbaum, unveiled at the forum, showed UK broadcasters, indies and distributors earned £183m from comedy and drama exports in 2004. By way of comparison, UK broadcasters spent £273m on imports.The balance leaned more to favouring the UK in entertainment and factual entertainment, including reality, lifestyle and makeover shows, with a healthy £53m surplus in 2004. In all, the industry generated £95m through entertainment and factual entertainment exports during 2004, compared to £42m spent on imports.

Documentaries also performed strongly, raising exports of £87m, compared to £45m spent on imports, generating a surplus of £42m for 2004, boosted by co-production deals and programme sales.