BBC Studios’ annual Showcase sales event attracted hundreds of TV buyers from around the world, including an Aussie delegation, to its event in Liverpool, England 12 months ago. A year later and BBC Studios has crafted an online Covid-safe sales event, still branded BBC Showcase.
Although the results from program sales aren’t in yet BBC Showcase which starts today, February 22, the virtual event looks likely to be a success.
“Last year in Liverpool we had over 600 buyers, and this year we have attracted over 1,000 registered buyers,” BBC Studios director of content sales Katie Benbow told Mediaweek.
“It is great to be able to offer a digital opportunity for more people and key decision-makers, getting everybody in what is a virtual room.”
Benbow said it was too early to forecast if this might mean a mix of in-person events and virtual attendance for future Showcases. “Let’s see how it goes. We have all learnt a lot about what we can do. Nothing beats the face-to-face interaction and the special environment we created each year in Liverpool when the whole buying community gets together with producers and commissioners. We are doing our best to replicate that virtually.”
Calculating the value of program sales is not the only measure of success, said Benbow. “It is also about connecting the TV community and conducting conversations around co-productions and development slates. There are not contracts signed from every meeting, but relationships are started around certain shows that will eventually grow.”
The virtual Showcase will still allow visitors to explore the BBC Studios catalogue as per normal. Benbow: “Guests can also view a pipeline of content that extends further out than we have ever looked before. They are also able to preview new shows and see interviews with content makers. We can also have one-on-one or one to many at the same time video is being viewed.”
Showcase content highlights
Natural history has long been a focus for the BBC, and audiences seem to have an appetite now more than ever for programming about the past, present and future of the world and how global warming might be impacting. N 2021 the BBC is introducing another Planet franchise. “This year we are launching The Green Planet,” said Benbow. “One of the things buyers will be able to watch is a conversation with Charlotte Moore [BBC chief content officer] talking about the new series.
“We are also launching Earthshot, a series about Prince William and David Attenborough’s climate change initiative.”
A number of BBC co-productions with Australian producers will be on offer at BBC Showcase.
Wakefield is a new series from Jungle Entertainment made in partnership with BBC Studios for the ABC in Australia. The series delves into the hidden world of the psychiatric hospital and was created by Kristen Dunphy. The cast includes British actor Rudi Dharmalingam (Tin Star, The Split), Mandy McElhinney (Bad Mothers, Squinters) and Geraldine Hakewill (Wanted, Miss Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries). “It is set in the Blue Mountains and it looks absolutely beautiful,” explained Benbow. “We are looking forward to taking it out to the world because it’s such a compelling story told in quite a unique way.”
BBC Showcase is also now home to all-conquering Bluey, a co-commission between ABC and BBC Studios and the creators at Ludo Studios. “It is already streaming around the world on Disney+, but we are taking it out to customers to get more regional windows.”
BBC crime drama
There are a number of British crime dramas on offer to buyers at BBC Showcase this year, said Benbow. “We have a drama called Smother which stars Dervla Kirwan. It is a relationship crime drama with a woman whose husband passes away. As she comes to terms with his death she learns more and more about his relationship with their daughters and more and more family secrets come to the fore. It is shot on the Irish coast of County Clare and is a very thrilling crime drama with twists and turns.
“We also have Sherwood which we are just starting to talk to buyers about. It is written by James Graham who wrote the hit series Quiz last year. Sherwood is based in part on real events and is set in a mining village in the UK where Graham grew up.”
Other BBC dramas
Another series with Aussie connections is the See-Saw Films production The North Water will be screened this year after a delay because of Covid in 2020. The series was featured at BBC Showcase last year too. “It looks absolutely incredible and we are confident it will do very well for us,” said Benbow. First announced two years ago, the series is set in the UK and the ice floes of the Arctic in the late 1850s, telling the story of Patrick Sumner, a disgraced ex-army surgeon who signs up as ship’s doctor on a whaling expedition to the Arctic.
“We are also launching Superhoe which is a new six-part musical drama based on Nicôle Lecky’s one-woman Royal Court show. She has written it and stars in the series. She is an incredible up-and-coming star. Nicole’s character is an aspiring singer and rapper and she finds herself caught up in social media influencing which then evolves into sex work. This is one to watch out for.
“We also have This is Going to Hurt, an adaption of Adam Kay’s best-selling novel starring Ben Wishaw who audiences know from Skyfall and A Very English Scandal. It is the autobiography of a junior doctor and it feels like a really relevant time to be talking about the experience of people on the front line. It is a co-production with AMC.”
A much-anticipated series is Emily Mortimer’s adaptation of Nancy Mitford’s novel The Pursuit Of Love (top photo showing co-stars James and Beecham), from executive producers Charles Collier, Matthew Read and Frith Tiplady for Open Book and Moonage Pictures. Amazon Studios is co-producing within the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand and the series will be produced by Rhonda Smith.
Written and directed by Mortimer, The Pursuit Of Love is a romantic comedy-drama about love and friendship. Set in Europe between the two World Wars, the story follows the adventures and misadventures of the charismatic and fearless Linda Radlett, played by Lily James (Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, Rebecca, Cinderella, Baby Driver) and her best friend and cousin Fanny Logan, played by Emily Beecham (Little Joe, Cruella).