ITV to commission long-running series

Michael Grade announced today that ITV are specifically looking for long running series.

To wit, “series that are on 14, 15, 16 weeks a year, on every year for three, four or five years”.

This is interesting because this is the first ITV move towards the new UK commissioning model of longer-term returning series. This brings it into alignment with cable commissioning in the US – and I’ve posted before about why 13 weeks is a nice number to have financially.

(Interestingly, Bill Cunningham thinks that the six-part model is ripe for revival, as part of a low-cost D2DVD market – take a look at this DMc post and the comments for a quick discussion. But I’m with Jane Featherstone – the path to profit for a UK indie is in TV sales, and six episodes a season just doesn’t cut it.)

Will the new UK standard force a shift to a writers’ room model? At the moment, the showrun shows (Doctor Who, Torchwood, Robin Hood) use a model with a head writer commissioning, creating the overall story arc, and (sometimes) rewriting scripts. The main proponent I’m aware of for this writing style in the US is David Shore.

What we’re not doing yet is breaking stories in the room. And that’s where the heavy lifting goes on in most US shows.

But mainly, the question is this: Will we have a writer in charge of the new breed of shows at ITV?

If so, then this may be the beginning of the end for the old UK model.

10 thoughts on “ITV to commission long-running series”

  1. Watch it Bishop: I have friends in high and low places, so can despatch of you in a number of inventive, not to mention painful, ways involving ways CSI could never do me in connection with even with their special sprays.

  2. To be clear Piers, I don’t think I said it would replace traditional TV models here in the US. I think that the six-pack is an area that more networks need to invest in – especially during the summer – as the model makes for great “event television” and “event DVD” packaging.

    I’m excited that Michael Grade is continuing the innovation in television set forth by his father Lord Lew Grade. Many of my fondest TV memories as a kid revolve around the ITC logo.

    I think what is happening is a great cross-pollenization of formats as both sides of the Atlantic experiment to try and gain viewers, while they try and determine how to work online entertainment into their game plan.

  3. Wasn’t suggesting that it would replace traditional US models – I was concentrating on the fact that it’s more cost-effective for a producer in the UK to go for 13 and sell to TV abroad than to attempt to monetise the six-parter via DVD.

    Where the six-parter might come into its own in the US is as a serial, which doesn’t seem to really exist in mainstream programming there. One story told over six weeks, no story-of-the-week, and when it’s done it’s done. Is this what you’re thinking of?

    You could also claim that 24 is a serial – I’m not convinced this is the case, though I’m finding it difficult to pin down why other than my own prejudices about length.

  4. Surprising that we aren’t seeing ‘the Room’ being used to storyline shorter drama series, as there’s a long tradition of using it for storylining soaps. Is this what Tony Jordan is looking to do at Red Planet? Wasn’t it one of the reasons for setting up his competition?

  5. One story told over six weeks, no story-of-the-week, and when it’s done it’s done. Is this what you’re thinking of?

    Exactly. Then if the ratings are good you can think sequel. Perfect for Summer audiences.

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