Buyer’s Eye View: Sarah Wright

Sarah Wright is controller of acquisitions, entertainment, BSkyB. She buys for Sky1 HD, Sky Living , Sky Atlantic and Sky Arts

How far in advance do you hear about the shows you’ll be screening in LA?
We have an LA rep, Rebecca Segal, who tracks everything from the script and development stage, so we’ve been tracking some of this year’s show since last summer.

So you head out to LA with a pretty specific shopping list?
No, I try not to have a hit list. You do think about the bigger shows with big-name talent attached and think ‘X is doing a pilot’, but I try to go in with an open mind and think ‘what do Sky customers want, how will it fit on the channel?’ It’s quite a scientific process.

Looking at the pick-ups, what’s your overall sense of this year’s pilots?
It’s a real pick and mix, there’s lots of everything. There are lots of comedies and strong midseason shows, there’s some out-there things based on fairy tales and alternative realities as well as solid procedural like Prime Suspect. It’s a good mix this year.

You buy for several channels – is there a big BSkyB acquisitions team in town?

No, it’s just me although the channel heads come too, so Elaine Pyke (Sky Atlantic), Stuart Murphy (Sky1 HD) and Sophie Turner Laing (managing director, entertainment and news) will also be there.

Do deals get inked while you are in LA?

I have made offers at the Screenings, but I feel those days are over now.
I will probably fall in love with something, but will then come back to the UK and we will make return on investment and other calculations.

What multiyear deals do you have with the studios?

We buy on an ad-hoc basis; we don’t have any output deals with the studios (but do have an agreement with HBO for Sky Atlantic).

Does the HBO deal and existing US content cover your needs for US fare on Sky Atlantic?

No, we’re looking to buy if we find the right show. We’re absolutely on the look-out for non-HBO shows for Sky Atlantic. But whatever we buy has got to sit next to HBO’s amazing output so we’re looking for high-end, smart programming and epic stories.

Are there any gaps to fill on Sky1 HD?
Sky1 HD’s Chicago Code is not returning, but we don’t think in terms of gaps.

What are the pricing trends for studio content?
I think there will always be a few shows that everybody wants and you do have bidding against each other, which puts the price up. We work out what a show can bring us and bid accordingly.
We have a reputation for having the best of the US and we really look after those shows. That’s not always the case with the terrestrials, which have a different business and priorities.

What are you really excited about?
Until I see them I can’t really tell. Alcatraz, Awake and Pan Am look interesting, Charlie’s Angels sounds fun, Terra Nova sounds great, but until you are in the viewing theatre you don’t really know.