One of the first modules I did on my screenwriting MA revolved around the business of screen project development. For my market analysis in December 2005, I looked at the opportunities for sci-fi and fantasy TV shows aimed at family audiences. Back then Doctor Who had just come back, Robin Hood was still in development and Primeval was about to get the greenlight. In essence, I was analysing a market still being born. Fast forward to March 2007 and Saturday nights round 7pm have become the place to watch sci-fi and fantasy TV shows aimed at family audiences. The BBC's commissioning website makes no bones about the fact it would be happy to have the likes of Doctor Who running 52 weeks a year in that slot, as this extract proves:-
BBC ONE Saturday Early Evening
Audience Context: Saturday night starts here and people are gearing up for the evening ahead. It is a time when people want to watch with others, to tap into the collective feel of Saturday night as a time of relaxation and celebration. This time of day is about wanting purely to be entertained. Doctor Who and Robin Hood have proved and possibly enhanced the demand for multi-layered TV that works across the family.
Audience Need: High adrenalin family entertainment that leaves everyone on a high.
• Meeting the Audience Need: A positive, energetic piece of entertainment to kick off Saturday night
• It’s unashamedly escapist
• Continuing the momentum we’ve built in revitalising and modernising family drama.
• A show that will build on Doctor Who’s success in revitalising and modernising family drama
• A show that is bold and surprising enough to offer entertainment to all the family
• Humour, irreverence, animation and ‘heightened reality’ settings offer fertile common ground across age groups
• Ideally it will offer the opportunity to extend the show onto a variety of media platforms
Budget: We are looking for ideas of 10-13 eps x 45 minutes. Our budget is approx £450k-£700k per hour
My market analysis concluded there was a burgeoning demand for shows like Doctor Who, and that demand would only increase if subsequent forays into the slot were a success. Looking back, my assessment was right on the money, as demonstrated by today's announcement from ITV about a second series of Primeval. That'll occupy two months next year, but that still leaves ten months which needs filling. Expect more of the same, but different!