Ignored by many who analyse the success of the James Bond franchise, MI6 pulls focus on the film debuts on television through the years...

Updated [5th April 2011]: Updated with "Casino Royale" and "Quantum of Solace" dates and all available BARB viewing figures for UK television...

James Bond On TV
13th October 2007 / 5th April 2011

James Bond has a cinematic history stretching back over 45 years, but one element often overlooked by historians analysing the cultural phenomenon of 007 is the impact that television has had on the series fan base.

Following the one-off television production of "Casino Royale" in 1954 on CBS, and ten years after Sean Connery made his big screen debut as James Bond in 1962's "Dr No", 007 hit television screens in the USA in a rather peculiar way. Unlike the UK where the films were broadcast in the order shown in theatres, American fans introduced to the legendary spy via the small screen in the early 1970's may have been slightly confused. The first film shown on network television in the USA was the third film, "Goldfinger", on 17th September 1972 as ABC's "Sunday Night Movie". Two years later, television viewers caught up with the rest of the early Connery outings out of order with "From Russia With Love" up next, followed by "Thunderball", and finally "Dr No" in 1974. The chaotic chronology was furthered in 1975 with "Diamonds Are Forever" being shown before "You Only Live Twice", and the much-criticised serialisation of "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" in two parts in 1976.

 


Above: The commercial break bumper slide for a screening of "Thunderball" as the Sunday Night Movie on ABC. Before the film started, an announcer informed the audience: "Although edited for television, this typical James Bond film may not be suitable for younger audiences. Parental discretion is advised".

Although UK television viewers got to enjoy the Bond outings on the small screen in the correct order, they would have to wait much longer than fans in the US for ITV to broadcast the films. Thirteen years would pass since "Dr No"s release in theatres before ITV made UK history with the broadcast first Bond film in 1975. ITV bought the rights for the first six James Bond films for £850,000 in 1974. One irked cinema owner described the sale as "not only killing the golden goose, but auctioning off the eggs". A steady stream of 007 on UK TV then followed, with an impressive burst of four films within 18 months during the lead up to the cinematic release of "The Spy Who Loved Me' in 1977.


Above: Straight shooter. The Roger Moore era aired on US and UK television in chronological order on the same network for all seven of his James Bond outings.
 

The Roger Moore era enjoyed its TV debuts without controversy in both the UK and USA, with all seven films airing in consecutive order on the same network - on ITV in the UK, and on ABC in the USA.

"The Man With The Golden Gun" had the distinction of airing before the next film had been released in US theatres, mainly due to the three-year gap between productions. "Moonraker", which for years held the Bond box-office record, still holds the record of shortest time to network television in the USA, making its premiere on ABC in just 2 years, 4 months and 24 days after its cinematic premiere. Bond fans in the UK got to enjoy four of Moore's outings making their TV debuts during the Christmas holidays. This sure-fire ratings winner was not lost on ITV, who often re-run Bond films during public holidays.

Time For A Station Break
During the cinematic hiatus between "Licence To Kill" (1989) and "GoldenEye" (1995), when producer Cubby Broccoli was embroiled in legal action against the studios over unfavourable television deals for the films, a three year vacuum occurred after ABC aired "The Living Daylights" in 1990. Eventually, the rights to "Licence To Kill" ended up at Fox, who aired the film in 1993 - the first and last time the network secured a Bond television premiere.

After the dust had settled, NBC aired their one and only Bond TV premiere with "GoldenEye" in 1998, then CBS secured the rights to the rest of the Pierce Brosnan era films, paying $20 million for "The World Is Not Enough" alone (it had first refusal on the film after previously purchasing "Tomorrow Never Dies"), which it broadcast three weeks ahead of "Die Another Day" opening in cinemas across the country.

Over in the UK, "Tomorrow Never Dies" was the first Bond film shown on television ahead of the US networks, with Brosnan's second outing airing on ITV a month before the next film had been released in theatres - another first for the franchise. It is also the earliest a Bond film has been shown on UK television following cinematic release. ITV went one step further with the 1999 outing "The World Is Not Enough", airing it a whole year before "Die Another Day" would premiere in theatres.

Up Next...
A bidding war erupted in the UK in 2006 over the broadcast rights to Daniel Craig's first outing as 007 when rival Channel 4 upped the ante against ITV for "Casino Royale". Unconfirmed press reports claimed that ITV paid around £25 million GBP for rights to Sony Pictures International and MGM, which also included the entire back catalogue of Bond films.

 

Above: Now pay attention 007, your latest mission will be an effective marketing tool for your next outing two years from now... "Tomorrow Never Dies" helped warm up audiences on UK television a few weeks ahead of the cinematic release of "The World Is Not Enough" in 1999.

ITV screened the film for the first time in September 2009, at least a year behind most European countries, to a modest average of 5.1m viewers. The technical presentation of Daniel Craig's debut may have detracted some, as ITV elected to broadcast the movie in full screen 'pan and scan' format, rather than widescreen and contained several edits.

Over in America, "Casino Royale" made its terrestrial debut on ABC (the first Bond film premiere on the network since "The Living Daylights") almost four years after its theatrical release. On cable, USA Network won another heated bidding war. The NBC Universal-owned channel beat out the three networks and cable channels Spike TV, TNT, and FX for the film. Beginning in 2009, USA has a five-year window to air the film. The deal was said to be worth $20 million. NBC also broadcast the film on SyFy Channel.

The 2008 James Bond film "Quantum of Solace" took over two years to make it to the free-to-air small screen in the UK, but for national broadcaster ITV1, it was worth the wait. Bond boosted ITV to the top of the Saturday night prime-time ratings average with 22.4% of the national audience, even though only 4.7m tuned in - proof that overall network television viewing is on the decline. A further 232,000 watched 'time shifted' within 24 hours.

Facts & Figures
The table below contains television premiere details for the USA and UK, including the number of days since release (DSR) for the film opening in national theatres. The network is listed for the USA entries, whereas all films made their television premiere on ITV in the UK.

Film USA TV Premiere * DSR UK TV Premiere DSR
Dr No 10th November 1974, ABC 4204 28th October 1975 4771
From Russia With Love 14th January 1974, ABC 3568 2nd May 1976 4588
Goldfinger 17th September 1972, ABC 2826 3rd November 1976 4430
Thunderball 22nd September 1974, ABC 3197 26th February 1977 4077
You Only Live Twice 2nd November 1975, ABC 3064 20th November 1977 3814
On Her Majesty's Secret Service 16th September 1976, ABC
23rd September 1976, ABC
2464
2473
4th September 1978 3182
Diamonds Are Forever 12th September 1975, ABC 1365 25th December 1978 2552
Live And Let Die 31st October 1976, ABC 1222 20th January 1980 2389
The Man With The Golden Gun 16th January 1977, ABC 759 25th December 1980 2198
The Spy Who Loved Me 12th November 1980, ABC 1218 28th March 1982 1725
Moonraker 22nd November 1981, ABC 880 27th December 1982 1280
For Your Eyes Only 27th January 1985, ABC 1311 31st August 1986 1894
Octopussy 2nd February 1986, ABC 968 30th January 1988 1699
A View To A Kill 5th November 1987, ABC 897 31st January 1990 1693
The Living Daylights 15th April 1990, ABC 989 3rd October 1992 1923
Licence To Kill 24th February 1993, Fox 1321 3rd January 1994 1665
GoldenEye 27th September 1998, NBC 1045 10th March 1999 1202
Tomorrow Never Dies 14th January 2001, CBS 1122 13th October 1999 670
The World Is Not Enough 3rd November 2002, CBS 1080 14th November 2001 719
Die Another Day 11th February 2006, CBS 1177 27th October 2004 1803
Casino Royale 29th August 2010, ABC 1381 19th September 2009 1038
Quantum of Solace TBA TBC 26th March 2011 876

The Broadcaster's Audience Research Board (BARB) provides in-home TV viewing measurement for the UK. This is obtained from a panel of 5,100 homes that returns data from around 11,300 viewers. These figures are then extrapolated to the general population.

Film UK TV Premiere DSR BARB Viewing Figures
GoldenEye 10th March 1999 1202 13.23 million
Tomorrow Never Dies 13th October 1999 670 11.86 million
The World Is Not Enough 14th November 2001 719 9.80 million
Die Another Day 27th October 2004 1803 7.55 million
Casino Royale 19th September 2009 1038 4.82 million
Quantum of Solace 26th March 2011 876 4.63 million

* The dates listed for television premiere in the USA are those of network television freely available to the whole country, rather than pay-per-view, subscription or cable channels.

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