BBC First to the rescue

Director of TV Natalie Edgar talks through her programming strategy of the new BBC First.

Picture shows: D?Artagnan (LUKE PASQUALINO)On Sunday BBC First launches in Australia, the first territory in the world to view the channel, comprising premium comedy and drama from the British broadcaster.

Launching with an impressive library of titles, the channel is appealing to binge-viewers with a day-long marathon of The Musketeers.

“On our launch day we’ve decided to not hold back. We want to be a very forward-facing channel. So on that very first day The Musketeers will be stacked from 9:30am,” Natalie Edgar, Director of Television said.

For those who prefer weekly instalments, the BBC One show will then replay, Sunday nights at 8:30pm.

Handsome BBC Two drama Peaky Blinders will air its first episode as a “sneak peak” from 7:30pm while BBC Four’s Burton and Taylor telemovie airs from 8:30pm.

Edgar told TV Tonight about her programming strategy for the new channel.

“Sunday 8:30 will be event shows like The Musketeers and A Young Doctor’s Notebook. On Monday we’ll have contemporary female content like Prisoners’ Wives, The Honourable Woman. Tuesdays will be period drama, Wednesdays will be crime such as The Fear with Peter Mullan who was in Top of the Lake.”

The channel also hopes to ‘cut through’ later in the week when choices are fewer, elsewhere.

“The Free to Airs aren’t doing too much on a Thursday, so we think it will be a great opportunity for Peaky Blinders. Fridays will be cult comedy such as Alan Partridge, Blandings, and a territory premiere of the new season of Derek.

“And Saturdays will be about our mature and moderate audience, women 40+.”

Post-launch the channel will also begin to fast-track further titles to Australian viewers.

Edgar revealed the second season of The Fall will be the first to get such treatment. Fans were left hanging after the end of season one.

The Fall will be the first cab off the rank in terms of fast-tracking. So the ambition is to go out within 48 hours of the UK transmission and it’s a title that is coming very soon.

“We had some audience saying ‘Where is the last episode?’ because it kind of leaves you hanging. But it’s a great series and we’re really excited to have it on BBC First.”

Also coming is 6 part cold war thriller The Game starring Brian Cox, Jonathan Aris Shaun Dooley, and Tom Hughes. The Honourable Woman with Maggie Gyllenhaal will air in September.

Production is also wrapping on the 7 part Australian-UK co production Banished in Manchester. It is expected to air early next year.

“The exteriors were shot in Sydney and then they moved to Manchester,” Edgar explained.

“I’m waiting with bated breath to see the first assembly, which should be quite soon. I haven’t seen a thing. But I have been checking with the UK daily asking ‘when, when, when?’

“Personally it’s such a thrill that the very first commission we got to do was a Jimmy McGovern series.”

The new channel is also in discussion with local partners for future projects.

“We have to keep our eyes and ears to the ground about what’s brewing away because you don’t want to miss the next story. So we have definitely have our feelers out trying to find our next commission.”

But the channel will also impact on ABC’s historic partnership, with a 12 month window period to come into effect on some BBC titles.

So far Call the Midwife and Death in Paradise are the only shows confirmed to screen on BBC First, before the public broadcaster.

Edgar, who was formerly with ABC Programming, remains enthused about the future of the new channel but with so much sexy content on offer, she struggles to single out her favourites.

“I really loved Burton and Taylor but Peaky Blinders is such a unique, British story. It’s a story that only BBC could tell. It’s up there as a world class drama.

“The cast is killer, the story is great, it’s so edgy and cool.”

BBC First launches 9:30am Sunday on CH 117.

6 Responses

  1. I love quality UK programs and will be watching BBC First – and not watching the ABC so much.
    The idea that BBC First programs might clash with reality garbage on FTA has me in hysterics!
    Oh, and I might not be as young as many here, but I’m still capable of reading a TV guide and finding out where favourite programs are scheduled so I don’t miss them.
    Rocket science? Nah.

  2. They have finally added series link information for Peaky Blinder and The Musketeers.

    But the first runs for Peaky Blinders are:
    #1 @ Su 3/8 7:30pm, #2 @ Th 7/8 9:35pm, #3 @ Th 15/8 8:30pm (its regular slot). There are repeats from #2 @ Su 7:20pm.

    So it will be interesting how they have linked those up.

    And anybody who watches the first few episodes of the Musketeers marathon and likes it will have to figure out where to pick it up on Sunday or late Thursday nights in a couple of weeks.

    Scheduling like for the Politician’s Husband @ 8:30pm Monday for 3 weeks is much easier for the viewers to keep track of.

  3. For once I am inclined to agree with Pertinax. People who enjoy quality UK programming are not binge viewers and I predict that audiences for BBC First will be small. Despite the twelve month delay, the ABC will still attract bigger audiences for BBC product.

  4. It’s cable, on a non-basic channel, showing foreign content. On Sunday and Monday nights the most poplar show in the household will be watched on the loungeroom TV and others timeshifted.

    The idea that you can take on FTA with a subset of viewers on a cable network that is only on 25% of households on those nights is delusional.

    They have saturated bombed the schedule with too much at once for viewers to watch, are showing double episodes that clash with The X Factor etc, have not established regular time slots for anything but The Politician’s Husband and not series linked episode so that viewer will not be able to find where the episodes end up.

    They have a lot to learn.

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