BBC First slow-tracks Banished, Wolf Hall to Australia.

New dramas, including one filmed in Australia, will arrive 3-4 months after their UK premiere.


New period dramas Banished and Wolf Hall may be drawing big audiences in the UK but Australian audiences will be forced to wait for them on BBC First.

Wolf Hall, starring Damian Lewis as Henry VIII and Claire Foy as Anne Boleyn, premiered in the UK in January. Averaging 4.4 million viewers it has become the biggest drama on BBC2 since 2002.

But it won’t premiere in Australia until Saturday April 11th, nearly four months after its UK launch.

Meanwhile colonial drama Banished, filmed in Australia with Russell Tovey and David Wenham, has also premiered to good numbers in the UK, scoring 3.4m viewers on BBC Two. Co-commissioned by BBC Two and BBC Worldwide Australia and New Zealand, it will not premiere here until June -three months after the UK.

These delays come despite BBC declaring the channel would offer “first, fast and uninterrupted” content to Australian subscribers.


A BBC First spokesperson told TV Tonight the channel has fast-tracked many shows including Call the Midwife, The Musketeers and Death in Paradise.

“Fast-tracking works best when it is an established show with a familiar proposition for the audience. With new shows we have found it is better to introduce audiences to the show with campaigns that build awareness and buzz in advance of the air date,” they said.

“All programming decisions are based on what is best for the show, the channel and the audience and are affected by a number of factors. Banished and Wolf Hall are big shows and a huge priority for BBC First, as such we wanted to give ourselves the time to make sure there is maximum awareness and excitement about the shows coming to the channel and to schedule them in a slot where we are confident they will do well.”

Allowing adequate time for promotion is often cited as reason for holding new titles in Pay Television, especially where materials are not readily available. But in the case of BBC titles, there are no ownership or access issues to materials owned by the BBC.

The delays also go against recent statements by Foxtel Executive Director Brian Walsh, “We are firmly of the view that Australians should be able to watch television with the rest of the world. It’s all about providing convenience. That’s the business we’re in.”

But BBC Worldwide Australia and New Zealand is under separate management to that of Foxtel, and sets its own programming schedule.

Meanwhile recent media articles on online piracy point towards programming delays as the key driver of illegal downloads.

Poldark has also premiered in the UK, but will screen in Australia on ABC.

“BBC First will continue to fast-track shows where we believe it is appropriate,” said a BBC spokesperson.

10 Responses

  1. Delaying these shows is the wrong strategy for BBC First. They have launched the channel to surprisingly low figures and this level of disconnect from the Foxtel audience will be perceived as arrogance. BBC First also need to commission a signature Australian drama, not British drama set in Australia if they want to distinguish themselves in this territory. So far the strategic thinking is not where it needs to be.

  2. They’ve got disappointing numbers over summer so have changed strategy. MKR will be factoring in their decision too, it is taking out 7:30pm till 9pm 4 of the main viewing nights, and they would be up against the ABC showing BBC and ITV stuff and Seven showing DA the other 3.

    It just a question of whether BBC World were better off selling exclusive first rights on the market or using them to run a cable Channel on Foxtel, for which they need stuff for 12 months of the year and most of their stuff premiere in the UK when we are going to beach and watching cricket.

    1. The have fast tracked some of their most popular shows with established audiences: Call The Midwife, Death in Paradise and Top Gear.

      It was the ABC that sat on New Tricks until the 2015 ratings season started.

  3. Usually I am in support of delayed broadcasts for first seasons, especially if there are gaps in broadcasts overseas, but this really bugs me for two reasons. Firstly, don’t promote yourself as a channel which will broadcast shows as close to their UK airing as possible if you’re not going to – surely the ACCC could find a false advertising claim in there somewhere. Secondly, you especially don’t do it if it is a local production. Banished wasn’t just filmed here, it was a BBC ANZ commission (the first of which for BBC First Aust.) so as such it’s premiere should have been in Australia at the same time as the UK.

  4. If only BBC First got rid of the on-screen branding including the ever present watermark than I might start to watch it. BBC1 and BBC2 in the UK do not run these on-screen marketing driven graffiti stains anymore. Why should viewers have to pay to watch a channel to get that here? Get rid of the watermark and come in line with other channels that do not run them like Showtime and Box Sets.

  5. It’s actually not a bad thing, as currently there are a lot of shows to keep up with. It makes sence to leave a few for the cooler, darker months when we don’t get a lot from overseas. I’m not really happy with BBC Firsts (and UK TVs) less than traditional start times for shows.

  6. They have also delayed last tango in halifax s3 as was advertised in foxtel listings for March but in their online listing has been replaced by a different 6 part series so I’m presuming Halifax will be delayed another 6 weeks . It’s disappointing that the only decent premieres we’ve had since January have been midwives, paradise and musketeers.

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