Over in the States audiences and reviewers are getting excited about Into the Badlands, a new six-part action series from AMC – the US cable giant which this summer launched a UK channel in partnership with BT.
International AMC audiences get to see each episode within 24 hours of its US debut but UK viewers needn’t race to set their series links because Badlands isn’t airing on BT’s version of the channel, instead it’s available via Amazon UK’s Prime Video service.
When news of the Amazon deal broke last month it prompted some understandable head scratching among TV fans who expected BT’s “exclusive” deal with AMC to guarantee it all of the channel’s new shows and so were puzzled to see one of its flagship commissions go elsewhere.
On social media and TV forums a number of people asked, not unreasonably, why AMC had opted to take Amazon’s money instead of BT’s, whether this meant the BT deal wasn’t as exclusive as first claimed or if BT was doing things on the cheap.
Some sniffing around suggests that the deal to bring AMC to the UK simply came too late to include some of the programmes already in AMC’s pipeline.
There are, in effect, two AMC channels – the original US version and an international channel known as AMC Global which airs in a number of countries and territories around the world including, since August, the UK.
TV rights are a murky and complex area but to keep things simple, AMC generally buys rights to shows for the US and AMC Global buys the rights for its international audiences.
According to some reports, talks to bring AMC to the UK only began this April – certainly BT TV boss Delia Bushell has spoken of only having three months to launch the channel.
April is also when AMC Global confirmed it had picked up the international rights for Badlands, so it seems that talks to cement that deal would have started long before a UK version of AMC was guaranteed and this is most likely why UK rights weren’t included.
When AMC commissioned Badlands back in July 2014 it was announced that rights for countries outside of AMC’s international footprint would be handled by Entertainment One Television and it’s they who sold the rights to Amazon.
UK audiences who don’t have Prime Video will be able to watch the show on AMC sometime in 2016. Perhaps not ideal for BT but at least it gets to screen Badlands eventually.
However it’s unlikely ever to screen two other major shows airing to US and international AMC audiences because they’re co-productions with British broadcasters.
The highly acclaimed Humans aired on AMC Global last month but UK audiences saw it earlier this year on Channel 4, and the much anticipated adaptation of John le Carré’s The Night Manager is a three-way co-production between AMC, The Ink Factory and BBC One who will broadcast the drama in the UK.
So that’s at least three shows which BT misses out on because the rights deals predate its agreement with AMC and the long lead-time associated with major TV projects means there may be more series it misses out on too.
But the channel already has two high profile exclusives in Fear The Walking Dead and the highly acclaimed Rectify and insiders are keen to stress that more high-quality shows are coming, both from AMC and, in the words of the original press release, “from other leading producers”.
In September Bushell referred to a strong line-up of unnamed commissions planned for 2016, echoing comments she’d made at the launch of AMC UK and Fear the Walking Dead when she hinted that her AMC counterparts had plenty of goodies with which to wow viewers lined-up.
If those promises are delivered on, the channel should become a big draw for fans of quality drama and early reports of poor ratings will soon be forgotten, but for now the channel is an interesting but not essential addition to BT’s TV offering.