Series will premiere in US on BBC America, with no date set for British broadcast
The long-awaited second series of the hit BBC drama Killing Eve will return to screens on Sunday night but audiences in the UK may have to wait months to watch it.
The show about a MI5 officers hunt for an assassin, starring Jodie Comer and Sandra Oh, has been an enormous critical and audience success for the BBC, topping the list of nominations for this years Bafta TV awards and being heralded by the BBC director general, Tony Hall, as one of the corporations biggest success stories of last year.
However, the new series will premiere in the US on BBC America and a date still has not been set for the programme to return to UK screens, an increasingly unusual situation for viewers who are used to streaming services such as Netflix releasing series simultaneously in almost every country in the world.
This is because Killing Eve was made as a special commission for BBC America, the corporations for-profit US cable channel, which has the exclusive rights to show its first run with those in the UK unable to watch it until after the US channel shows the final episode on 26 May.
BBC America, a joint venture with US company AMC Networks, does not receive public funding and carries advertising, ultimately funnelling its profits back to the BBC to subsidise programming made for UK viewers.
However, in this case, the British licence fee payers face having to wait to see the new series of a hit British TV show produced under the BBC banner, due to the issues surrounding ownership of the international rights.
A BBC spokesperson said the decision to delay broadcasting Killing Eve was necessary to enable the release of all eight episodes at the same time on iPlayer.
BBC America are playing it out in weekly episodes, they said. This means we have to wait until BBC America have premiered all of the weekly episodes which as commissioning broadcaster they are entitled to do before we can begin our transmission, otherwise we would be premiering episodes before them.
The decision to make it a box set was based around how we thought audiences would enjoy the programme. We are still experimenting with different release models and we know last time audiences really loved the fact we did this as a box set so they could binge.
This has raised the prospect of piracy, with British fans of the show tempted to access downloads of the US broadcast via illegal streams and torrents rather than wait and risk encountering spoilers from US coverage of the show.
Killing Eves US premiere last April, with British audiences only seeing it when it appeared on BBC Three six months later, meant it should not have been eligible for the Bafta awards, some of which are only eligible to shows originally made for a British audience. However, judges bent the rules and gave it 14 nominations in order to recognise the shows extraordinary success, which saw the series attract tens of millions of views from the UK on BBC iPlayer.
Bizarrely, some other smaller countries have already bought up the rights to Killing Eve and will show the second series before the BBC, with fans in New Zealand being able to watch it episode-by-episode from Monday night.
Killing Eve was initially developed by Phoebe Waller-Bridge for Sky in the UK. However, BBC America stepped in to snap up the project, with the BBC in the UK buying the British rights to show the programme. Waller-Bridge, who created Fleabag, has stepped back from the second series, which will also be shown on the main AMC channel in the states – home to other high-end shows such as Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and The Walking Dead.
The issue also highlights the difficulties surrounding the BBCs attempts to compete with the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime, who can use their global heft to create worldwide coverage around a single show. The BBC is fighting to turn its iPlayer service into a destination in its own right that will show programmes for up to 12 months at a time but is facing regulatory challenges and the need to negotiate rights deals with programme creators.
David Attenborough, the face of the BBCs wildlife coverage, said his decision to partner with Netflix for their big-budget Our Planet series was influenced by the streaming services ability to release the show around the world on the same day.
He suggested this creates a global buzz that is hard to replicate using the traditional television production model, which sees rights sold on a region-by-region basis to national broadcasters who then show the material in their own time.
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