BBC America Strikes Gold

Feb 2, 2004  •  Post A Comment

HBO may have tallied the most TV trophies at the Golden Globes, but surprise double-winner “The Office”-and BBC America, where it airs-stand to gain the most from their victories.
BBC America was the only network aside from HBO to win multiple awards at the gala, telecast Jan. 25 by NBC. “The Office” was honored with awards for best comedy series and best comedy actor. Ricky Gervais, the star, co-writer and co-creator of “The Office,” said backstage at the ceremony that he didn’t know what effect the awards might have on the show. “We’ve been here two days,” he said. “I’m probably going to be more arrogant and lazy.”
BBC America CEO Paul Lee is far less unsure. “It’s a really key moment for us,” he said. “We’re going to do anything we can to enjoy it.”
Mr. Lee said he has already decided to schedule an encore run of all 12 existing episodes from the two seasons of “The Office” sometime in April. BBC America also is taking out congratulatory print ads in consumer and print publications and will heavily promote a fourth-quarter “Office” Christmas special, which will be available to advertisers to buy in the upfront.
“It’s huge,” Mr. Lee said. “It really is a watershed moment. You’ve never seen a network like this win at the Globes.”
“The Office” already was one of the biggest hits on BBC America, a cable network available in about 38 million U.S. homes through digital cable systems and satellite. The show, produced by the BBC and BBC America, in its second season on average drew between 300,000 and 400,000 viewers per episode in the United States last fall, according to BBC America.
Mr. Lee said he expects BBC America to feel the awards’ impact across the board, in terms of viewership, distribution and advertising sales. “The audience was around 2 million who watched second series,” he said. “There are 100 million people who now want to watch the series.”
“We certainly feel along with our Discovery partners that the value of the network goes up in terms of ad sales clients,” he added. “As far as distribution is concerned … this allows Discovery, which handles affiliate sales, to say, you know the best comedy in America is on this channel.”
From a cable operator’s perspective, Mr. Lee added that the wins represent “a fantastic tool to really drive digital.”
It’s a “symbol of digital getting big enough to get noticed,” he added.
“The Office” is eligible for a Primetime Emmy nomination this year, but a nomination is not a shoo-in. While the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s Golden Globes traditionally are known as a relatively reliable indicator of the the Oscars, they don’t have the same reputation when it comes to foretelling fates at the Emmys. The HFPA has been known to exhibit a more quirky, offbeat taste than the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, which governs the Primetime Emmys.
Although NBC didn’t take home any Golden Globe statues, it was a ratings winner. Its Globes broadcast drew the largest audience yet in the network’s nine years of airing the gala. It also beat ABC, CBS and Fox combined among 18- to 49-year-old viewers that Sunday night. According to preliminary data from Nielsen Media Research, more than 50 million people turned in during the ceremony, which was seen by an average of 26.7 million people over the course of three hours.
NBC is also likely to benefit from the “The Office’s” profile boost. Last week, the network was casting an adaptation of the comedy series, which is being produced by Reveille and Universal Network Television. The project already was on the fast track for a potential summer debut. Late last week, Steve Carrell (“The Daily Show”) was in talks to star as a character inspired by Mr. Gervais’ character. Unlike NBC’s adaptation of Britain’s “Coupling,” its “Office” will not follow the original version’s scripts word for word, but rather model its characters on those of the British version while incorporating American corporate idiosyncrasies.
Reveille’s Ben Silverman, an executive producer of the NBC project, said he’s thrilled about his creative partners’ recognition.
“There’s so much fractionalization and competition, so having something pre-branded is always a plus,” he said.
A complete list of Golden Globe TV winners is available on TVWeek.com.