ITV plans to increase its drama output in 2013, and is inviting producers to come forward with fresh ideas and proposals.
There will be an extra 40 hours of new drama in the 2013 schedule, the equivalent of six to seven new drama series, likely to run at 9pm or 8pm, and representing an additional investment estimated at around £28 million.
ITV director of drama, Laura Mackie, said: “We have a hunger for new stuff. We still have lots of slots to fill in autumn 2012, and in 2013 the hours for drama will go up further. It is great news for the creative community”.
The renewed confidence in original drama, a sharp contrast to the bleak budget cuts of 2009, arises from the success of Downton Abbey, the strong ratings performance from dramas launched during 2011, and the fact that there are no major sports events on ITV planned for 2013. ITV is also anxious to counteract its dependence on The X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent, while cheaper factual programmes at 9pm have not enjoyed the same success as popular drama series with well-known stars.
Mackie said she was especially interested in adding variety to a schedule arguably too skewed towards crime and detectives, with new dramas focusing on female relationships, in the mould of past successes at the BBC and ITV.
She cited Cutting It, Footballers’ Wives, Life Begins, Mistresses and the comedy At Home with the Braithwaites as the type of drama missing from ITV.
“I really am keen though to stress that we don’t rule anything out. When Julian [Fellowes] pitched Downton Abbey, we were not looking for period drama,” she said.
As an example, Mackie pointed to the recent commission of a six-part series, Eternal Law, now in production, about an angel disguised as a human, who arrives to lend a helping hand to a community in York. It is devised by Ashley Pharoah and Matthew Graham, the team behind Ashes to Ashes, and stars Samuel West.
Another area she is interested in is pre-watershed dramas at 8pm, despite the ending of The Bill, Heartbeat and The Royal.