Following the US successful of Torchwood‘s latest season, Miracle Day, the BBC have opted to begin production on more dramas with the Starz TV label.
The BBC have a history with US networks and have worked hard trying to stay in contact with the biggest US cablers, attempting to maintain a friendly relationship with the biggest premium supplier – HBO – with Ricky Gervais’ Extras notably being shown, and co-financing the historical epic Rome at the same time. Soon after, however, it became obvious that the BBC were only after certain types of programming and never striked an exclusivity deal with HBO even with their reputation for high quality dramas.
Shortly after Rome production ceased, the BBC begun working on a similar international historical soap opera; The Tudors, but this time, not with HBO as the partners: Showtime arrived and the show maintained relative popularity for the four years it was on. BBC had a certain freedom, they programmed Showtime shows such as Nurse Jackie, broadcast The Wire and won big with the popularity of AMC’s Mad Men.
This was until bSkyb came along and done everything BBC had been dodging: Sky Atlantic. Sky struck a million dollar deal to broadcast all future HBO programming and have access to their back catalogue that includes The Sopranos and Six Feet Under. They also purchased all future seasons of Mad Men. Simply put, this took away a lot of the freedom over the US TV market that they dominated in terms of availability. So the news that the BBC are now working with Starz, a new premium broadcaster, is intriguing because it might bring a newfound respect to the network of the trashy excellence of Spartacus (and outright trashiness of Torchwood). But considering their output thus far, and the Starz execs ideal of creating a dedicated niche for their shows, I can’t quite see what an original BBC/Starz co-production might look like and that’s troubling.