Julian Clover sees the crew of Red Dwarf return to earth as Dave’s audiences head skywards.
The days when multichannel television relied exclusively on a diet of US reruns are now thankfully behind us. The best US content continues to gravitate towards the better channels with the Big 5 also now interested in running top quality American drama, such as Damages, Mad Men and Desperate Housewives.
Over the Easter weekend Sky One screened an adaptation of the David Almond children’s fantasy novel Skellig as part of a £10 million investment in original HD content. Following the success of Sir Terry Prachett’s The Hogfather, the new commission ticked more than a few boxes.
Arguably if your schedule is built on re-runs, even if they were originally made for a domestic audience, there is little need to start creating your own content. But channels both grow and need to be distinctive, besides you may be successful in acquiring seasons one and two of a show, only to find a rival picks up number three.
The amount of local content seen on the UKTV network varies according to the channel. Rather than leaning on its BBC sweetheart deal, UKTV Food cooks up more than half of its own content. GOLD has like its predecessor UKTV Gold used popular presenters such as Bruce Forsyth and Sir Terry Wogan to dip into their shelves in the BBC archive, but Dave has gone a stage further, commissioning a new series of Red Dwarf.
When the eighth series of the sci-fi spoof ran on BBC Two in 1999 the programme was able to command eight million viewers. The first of Dave’s three-part special, Red Dwarf: Back to Earth, was able to pull in 2.29 million on Good Friday (April 10) with a further 374,000 watching an hour later on the comically named Dave ja vu. The audience was enough to beat both BBC Two and Five in the timeslot.
The male skewing Dave benefits from being available through satellite, cable and terrestrial outlets, and that puts it in 85% of British television households. Looking at Barb’s viewing shares for March of the channels blessed with the same distribution, Dave is the only one whose ownership is directly outside of the Big 5, even if 50% of its parent’s shareholding belongs to BBC Worldwide with Virgin currently holding onto the other half. Dave recorded a viewing share of 0.9% with the +1 hour channel drawing 0.3%. Sky One with distribution principally on satellite and cable achieved 1.3%.
Arguably Dave is the perfect channel to break into the mainstream, even if we all tune back to the BBC in times of national crisis.