BBC quits 50 year deal with “disappointed” ABC

2013-04-18_0755An output deal between the BBC and ABC will end after nearly 50 years following the announcement of a new BBC Drama and Comedy channel on Foxtel.

Almost all the BBC Dramas and Comedies will shift to the new channel as Australian premieres, many which will be fast-tracked, and will only become available for Free to Air after 12 months.

But the ABC is unhappy it was not consulted on the new deal.

“In the past, the ABC has been able to point to our audience share, distinctive reach and the unique relationship between the two organisations, which has lasted 50 years,” an ABC spokesman said.

“The ABC is disappointed that this decision was taken without any consultation.

“The decision has no impact on the ABC’s ability to acquire content from other British production houses and television networks like ITV and Channel 4.”

ABC’s contract with BBC ends mid-2014, when the new Pay TV channel will launch. In addition to Drama and Comedy, other BBC lifestyle programmes will also appear on other Pay TV channels. Other genres are not affected.

ABC1 Channel Controller told TV Tonight, “We found out about the announcement on Tuesday, 24 hours before it was announced to the market.  We are obviously very disappointed that our relationship appears to be coming to an end after nearly 50 years.  We weren’t consulted by the BBC or invited to counter.

“Whilst it is disappointing news, we have a large local production slate of new and returning shows as well as other returning British hits (like Doctor Who, Grand Designs and Qi) that will continue to attract audience to ABC TV from 2014 and beyond. ”

TV Tonight understands the deal also affects prevents ‘grandfathering’ arrangement for current titles remaining with broadcasters, such as subsequent seasons of New Tricks and Call the Midwife, except for a handful of shows. TEN has a deal for Ripper Street and the Seven retains Citizen Khan, which premieres tonight.

BBC believes viewers will still be able to access titles when many appear later on Free to Air, just as Nine’s Top Gear premieres first on BBC Knowledge. But industry sources tell TV Tonight that networks will be unlikely to want to pay for shows that viewers will have accessed elsewhere.

In 2009 when SBS lost Top Gear to Nine, then-managing director Shaun Brown said,“It is disappointing that a brand SBS has spent many years building is moving to a commercial network.”


  1. I’m still confused, does that mean more new Programs on the existing UKTV BBC which I’ve payed for Recently.

    Or will the Existing BBC UKTv Channel be filled with repeats and no new Episodes or Programs.

    And will more programms be showing on this New Premium channel which will we have to Payout yet more money to watch at a premium?

    Are there any clear answers out there or are they just going to be cagey about pricing and Structure until the Actuall Channel is launched?

  2. There is great stuff on ITV at the moment. Broadchurch and Lightfields were very good. A series for the older viewers that would rate very well is The Bletchley Circle, again ITV and again from last year. A great female cast set in the 40s with a murder mystery. The BBC was very upset last year when it lost a lot of its shows due to a deal between the US and SKY. Now its doing the same thing here with Foxtel. Lots of UK shows I like but will not pay for it. Some great Aussie shows on or coming soon to fill the void.

  3. Maybe the ABC can spend on Australian content or heaven forbid for the oldies subtitled content. Don’t mind english content but the ABC could have been rebranded BBC South Pacific – now it needs to think about doing stuff rather than just buying it

  4. Doctor Who already had a run of series agreement in place, so that is why it is remaining with the ABC.

    AMC has announced new programs today, so ABC should look to deal with them, and see if they can find the next Mad Men or Breaking Bad before Foxtel nabs them. Or maybe we will end up with a heap of cheap Canadian stuff.

    Fortunately, the BBC releases the DVDs/blu-rays as soon as the series ends, unlike the US, so business at Amazon UK will be booming. Still better value than Foxtel, with a second hand market as well.

  5. @iolanthe

    The BBC iplayer does not work outside the UK (unless you choose to illegally go around the geoblock). This is true for TV. However radio is available to all (yay 😐 )

    Apparently there is an iphone/ipad app you can use, but since I loathe anything with an “i” in front of it almost as much as I loathe Foxtel, you will have to test this for yourself.

  6. Armchair Analyst

    This isnt all to surprising. eventually this was bound to happen, although At the end of the day its all entertainment anyway so it does have a larger impact then what you or BBC claim. Its been happening in terms of sport for atleast a decade. The Ashes were only on FTA in the past and in recent years there are now on FTA and Pay Tv, same with the EPL SBS used to have the rights now they are exclusively with FOXtel. I do agree 100% that the FTA Networks will not be paying full price for content which was shown first on Pay Tv. In 2014 we could see a very different ABC in Prime time which is wear most of these shows are aired.

  7. I still have lots of questions: How long does this deal last with Foxtel (the last one with ABC went for three years)? Is it really just drama, comedy & lifestyle? What does this mean for BBC programs sold through ABC DVD (I want my money going back into ABC)? How the hell does Doctor Who remain with ABC1 (these pirates are always pampered at the expense of everyone else who doesn’t watch that primetime kids show)?

    Let’s remember Grand Designs (not a BBC program) & QI come to us through FremantleMedia, so they were never in doubt. But what about some Channel 4 programs like Alan Carr that is distributed through BBC?

    I’d like to remind the good people at ABC that this will most certainly impact on their ability to acquire content from ITV & Channel 4. That’s because other networks will be sniffing around for more first-run British programming, which will push the price higher. That said, ABC might have FTA BBC rights all to themselves now because Nine, Seven & TEN won’t be too keen on stuff that’s at least a year old… Most of the time.

  8. What a shame.
    I’m not elderly … yet (getting there though 😉
    But I love British Drama.
    And I don’t have Foxtel.

    Does anyone know if this includes “Midsomer Murders”? I think it’s an ITV (Is that BBC)?

    Is it a full moon or something?
    First DOOL, now this … weird! 😉

  9. @bettestreep2008

    “A lot of Australians who watch BBC programs on the ABC are elderly and probably on the pension.
    These people cannot afford Foxtel – unless Foxtel offers senior discounts.”

    That’s a really incorrect statement to make. I’m 21 and the only channels I actually sit down and watch are ABC and SBS. Plus, it’s not just the elderly that can’t afford Foxtel either. Even if I could afford Foxtel, I wouldn’t buy it.

    This is really disappointing, spare a thought for those of us who live in regional areas who already get different content to city viewers. You’d go crazy watching Imparja! ABC is the only decent channel, mainly because it has a good mix of decent British, and Australian content.

    • Worth remembering TV Tonight readers voted ABC1 as Channel of the Year in this year’s awards and I can tell you they were very very proud to win it …even as good as a Logie I was told!

  10. Not impressed. Esp not impressed that ABC weren’t given any options. No one will get Foxtel just to see BBC shows except maybe a few ex-pats. All will source the shows “elsewhere”.

  11. seriouslysquare

    so will this spell the end of the stupid 13th street? with Foxtel teaming up with so many US and UK channels I think a channel overhaul is needed.

    for example an animation channel screening fox8 animations and animations on the comedy channel.

    a channel dedicated to the teen/young adult demo. (teen wolf, vampire diaries, etc)

  12. But isn’t BBC’s iplayer now legally available in Australia which means we can get this stuff direct and above board without relying on dubious internet means or the ABC? It seems a pretty rational decision by the Beeb to build its brand directly rather than through the ABC.

  13. Secret Squirrel

    @bill @MHA – it’s been said many times before that govt restrictions mean that the ABC (and the other networks) must broadcast their main channels in SD. Nothing is stopping them from also broadcasting a HD version like they did at the beginning, but that would mean having to give up one of their existing channels.

    Nothing much is going to change too much as far as ABC viewers are concerned. The ABC hasn’t exactly been fast-tracking BBC dramas anyway.

    Given their audience demographics, there will still be plenty of value in showing 12-month old series of “New Tricks” and “Call The Midwife”. As Pertinax points out, oldies are still flocking to epsiodes of “New Tricks” from 2006 (so that’s 7 years-old, not 5).

  14. So it appears that the ABC which has for years looked like BBC Lite is now BBC Gone. I agree the ABC should have seen this coming however it is equally dangerous for the BBC to think it can now put all its eggs into the Foxtel basket, a platform with only 30% of households. If I was Mark Scott I would now embark upon a massive efficiency drive across all departments focussing particularly on the vast middle management bureaucracy and their internal and external engagement with all contractors down to the couriers etc. This would liberate many millions which could be put into local production. Any production person who has either worked at the ABC or contracted with it is well aware of its inefficiencies and unnecessary costs.

  15. Oh goody, If you push programs to Sattelite, people tend to push back harder haven’t the BBC learn’t anything from the popularity of programs run on sattelite like GOT.

    You’ve been warned and warned. But BBC is obviously not listeing, look at the the push to fast tracking with things like game thrones from sattelite US Programming to Australian Sattelite Helped nothing its cause because people who don’t own sattelite are still pirating these programs rather than wait for TV broadcasting if ever it did come to terrestrial tv .

    The push with BBC first run programming to sattelite will not change a thing, infact it’ll probably make ratings worse.

    Because people who don’t own sattelite will find these programs else where rather than wait till ABC shows them.

    They would have been better up bolstering its deal with ABC rather than going for the extra cash the Sattelite Companys are offering.

    It’ll end up hurting BBC in the long run but by then it’ll be too late.

    Oh well thats Business!

  16. Immediately shutting out two-thirds of your audience in Australia is not a smart way to strengthen your brand. Most older viewers will just wait for the DVDs or FTA – they aren’t fussed about getting it late. Most younger viewers will download any shows they might miss, if they don’t already.

  17. This decision is such a shock to the ABC because it has been overly reliant on premium BBC content to pursue ratings. The main positive that will emerge is that it’s high time Australian produced content, and in particular premium drama, formed the backbone of the ABC’s prime time schedule. Wake up Aunty – time to get moving commission more drama – like The Broken Shore that can be programmed at 830 Sunday night!

  18. I agree with MHA, maybe if the ABC (and the rest of the FTA channels) joined the 21st century and showed new shows in HD this may not have happened.
    So much new TV is made in HD with DD sound and all we get is SD rubbish

  19. It’s a shame that the BBC is just after money. Not everyone can afford Foxtel and this deal is just going to lead more people to watch BBC shows using not so legal means.

  20. I take it then, that this gives the new guy from channel ten to experiment with bad quality reality programmes which sent ten down the ratings ladder?

  21. @bettestreep2008 – No first-run BBC progs on ABC1 last night yet they still beat TEN. LOL.
    @pietro – Africa went to TEN as BBC wanted too much.

  22. Still won’t be buying Foxtel. Can wait a year for ABC, who should expect a discounted price.
    Africa went to TEN because the BBC wanted too much for it.
    Pretty pathetic treatment of a customer of 50 years by the BBC.
    But how few will have actually watched the shows on Foxtel before being available to ABC? Judging by last night’s East Enders and Coronation St., even less than watch STW9 News (<100K).

  23. On the basis that the BBC want a branded channel for their product, the ABC could have negotiated an additional digital channel to deliver just that.

    If there is an upside, it might be that the programming will be cheaper for the ABC, given that it will not be first-run content by the time it is available to FTA.

    @MHA – I really don’t get the definition argument, and I have full HD. In addition, Australia does not have the market (ie, the population) to produce the same proportion of content that the UK and US do.

    @JamesJ @Shazz – agreed.

  24. The days when the BBC sold exclusive rights and infinite repeats of all its shows cheap to the ABC as a sister public broadcaster ended decades ago.

    BBC Worldwide has been building a global brand and trying to make as much money as possible for the last decade. They are doing global co-productions and selling Sherlock, Parade’s End, Ripper, Citizen Kane and Mrs Brown’s Boys etc. to the highest bidder.

    The ABC has been relying on a deal to pick what they wanted out of what was left without guarantees to fill their schedule. They have showd a lot of BBC content in non-primetime slots, ignored many shows and pulled out of their deal with BBC for Top of The Lake.

    If the ABC didn’t see this coming when their contract expired, especially after the BBC bought UKTV and set up BBC Knowledge, then they were asleep at the wheel. Their whining and claiming to be a victim is pathetic.

    Exclusive rights should come with an ironclad option for future series and that appears to be the case for most of high profile BBC shows on FTA here. Everyone one remembers The Friends debarcle and what happens when you do output deals with them.

    Commercial broadcasters will not be interested in shows after they have screened on cable and the DVDs are out. The ABC has routinely sat on BBC shows for 9-12 months before showing them anyway so it won’t make that much difference. They are still getting over 700k for 5-year-old New Tricks episodes on Tuesdays for example.

  25. bettestreep2008

    JamesJ – I agree with you.

    A lot of Australians who watch BBC programs on the ABC are elderly and probably on the pension.

    These people cannot afford Foxtel – unless Foxtel offers senior discounts.

    Oh well – the only positive is that without quality BBC programs, Ten might manage to beat the ABC a few more times in future.

  26. @craigj77

    I don’t know why you are looking forward to it. You will effectively be paying more for the premium channel – which you already get through your tax dollars on ABC. So basically you will end up paying more for what you already have access to.

  27. Still doesn’t make me want to shell out good money to be ripped off by Foxtel…

    In any case, this kind of thievery just makes me distrust Foxtel more.

  28. Payback for the ABC not buying shows that were an obvious fit, such as Africa perhaps.

    One would hope that Foxtel will also have the alternative of HD.

  29. Well, the ABC only has itself to blame by failing to screen BBC content in HD. Instead wasting its HD spectrum on SD up-converted news content all the time. Looking forward to seeing new BBC content at last in HD on Foxtel from next year. A pity Doctor Who and QI which are produced in HD remain banished on SD only ABC.

    The ABC along with all other Australian broadcasters are going to have to learn to not rely on overseas content anymore. The US and to a lesser extent, the UK networks don’t rely on overseas content as such. To survive and stay relevant, more focus should be on more local production.

  30. I have to say I think it’s a poor move by the BBC, severing a long-standing relationship like that. Poorer still the ABC weren’t informed about it.

    I don’t think Pay TV is the best place to grow the BBC brand in a country like Australia where most people don’t have access to it…

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