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
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
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
on ABC. Before the film started,
an announcer informed the audience: "Although edited for
James Bond film may not be suitable for younger audiences.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
during the Christmas holidays. This sure-fire ratings winner
was not lost on ITV, who often re-run Bond films during
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.
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
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"
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
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
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.
||USA TV Premiere *
||UK TV Premiere
||10th November 1974, ABC
||28th October 1975
|From Russia With Love
||14th January 1974, ABC
||2nd May 1976
||17th September 1972, ABC
||3rd November 1976
||22nd September 1974, ABC
||26th February 1977
|You Only Live Twice
||2nd November 1975, ABC
||20th November 1977
Her Majesty's Secret Service
||16th September 1976,
23rd September 1976, ABC
|4th September 1978
|Diamonds Are Forever
||12th September 1975, ABC
||25th December 1978
|Live And Let Die
||31st October 1976, ABC
||20th January 1980
|The Man With The Golden Gun
||16th January 1977, ABC
||25th December 1980
|The Spy Who Loved Me
||12th November 1980, ABC
||28th March 1982
||22nd November 1981, ABC
||27th December 1982
|For Your Eyes Only
||27th January 1985, ABC
||31st August 1986
||2nd February 1986, ABC
||30th January 1988
|A View To A Kill
||5th November 1987, ABC
||31st January 1990
|The Living Daylights
||15th April 1990, ABC
||3rd October 1992
|Licence To Kill
||24th February 1993, Fox
||3rd January 1994
||27th September 1998, NBC
||10th March 1999
|Tomorrow Never Dies
||14th January 2001, CBS
||13th October 1999
|The World Is Not Enough
||3rd November 2002, CBS
||14th November 2001
|Die Another Day
||11th February 2006, CBS
||27th October 2004
||29th August 2010, ABC
||19th September 2009
|Quantum of Solace
||26th March 2011
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.
* The dates listed for television premiere
in the USA are those of network television freely available to the whole country,
subscription or cable channels.