Anthony Horowitz’s new BBC drama, New Blood, will premiere exclusively on BBC iPlayer before its transmission on BBC One.
The seven-part investigative drama will be the first prime time drama series to be available online to stream before its traditional TV broadcast. It is far from the first programme to debut on-demand, though: it follows in the tyre tracks of Peter Kay’s Car Share, which was the channel’s first sitcom to hit the web before the airwaves.
That broke records, with 2.8 million requests for the programme received in the week following its release, making it the most popular box-set at the time on the VOD platform. Since then, it has gone on to win Best Comedy at the 2016 National Television Awards and has racked up four BAFTA nominations, including Sian Gibson for Female Performance In A Comedy Programme in 2016, Peter Kay Male Performance and Best Scripted Comedy.
The Beeb will be hoping for similar success with New Blood. Produced by Eleventh Hour Films and directed by Anthony Philipson (Our Girl), New Blood is described by the broadcaster as “a bold and surprising” crime series. It sets out to show a unique side of modern London through the eyes of two outsiders, Stefan and Rash, junior investigators for the Serious Fraud Office and the police, who are brought together by two seemingly unrelated cases.
Stefan and Rash are opposites in almost every way. What they do share are the same frustrations with life – underpaid, unappreciated and undermined. Lumbered with huge university loans, they can’t afford to buy a house and have little or no job security. New Blood will see them come up against the rich and powerful – corporations, individuals, governments and the new breed of criminals who hide behind legitimate facades and are guarded by lawyers.
Charlotte Moore, Controller of BBC Television and iPlayer, says: “BBC iPlayer was the first platform that brought drama on-demand to audiences and has continued to be at the centre of innovation. Anthony Horowitz is a master storyteller who has a unique ability to tell compelling stories that appeal to audiences of all ages. New Blood is the perfect fit to be the first prime time drama series to premiere on iPlayer and to help young audiences find a way to consume content online.”
Horowitz adds: “We have to recognise that young people don’t watch TV the way we did, and it’s very much in the spirit of New Blood that the show will premiere on iPlayer. I couldn’t be happier that we’re going to be ‘out there’ on demand – it’s a great way to launch a show which is very much about the younger generation – before we settle into our seven-week, 9pm slot.”
The decision arrives as the BBC increasingly embraces the potential for digital broadcasting. Indeed, as part of a cost-cutting measure, BBC Three became and online-first TV channel in February 2016, with all long-form shows for the channel premiering on BBC iPlayer, before being repeated at a later date on BBC One or BBC Two. In the first six weeks of the channel’s online existence, it has seen flagship drama Thirteen receive 2.4 million requests for its opening episode, which rivals the popularity of Sherlock’s Chrismas special, The Abominable Bride, which was streamed 2.4 million times on iPlayer in January 2016.
For more on BBC Three’s ratings, click here, or see our guide to what’s coming soon on BBC Three. For more on what’s good to stream from the Beeb, see our weekly BBC iPlayer column.
Photo: BBC/11TH HOUR FILMS