It’s enough to send a shudder down the spine of the BBC – could Netflix or Amazon be hoping to hire the services of Call the Midwife writer and creator Heidi Thomas?
Thomas, whose adaptation of Louisa May Allcott’s Little Women is one of the BBC’s big shows this Christmas alongside the Call the Midwife Christmas special, has said that “two non-terrestrial broadcasters” are interested in “two ideas” she is developing.
She added: “At the moment I have had such a busy year and I have a couple of things in development and various non-terrestrial broadcasters are interested in co-producing and I can’t say who they are at the moment.”
When asked by RadioTimes.com whether the two companies go by the name of Netflix or Amazon she wouldn’t say. But if she were lured away it would be a massive blow to the BBC, for whom Call the Midwife is one of its most popular shows.
Speaking at a Broadcasting Press Guild lunch on Tuesday, Thomas (pictured below) also sang the praises of on-demand digital services, including Netflix.
“All of these digital platforms are really exciting… I can’t wait for the second series of The Crown, I find that very exciting. I just love the fact that there are multiple platforms available to the viewer that aren’t interrupted by advertising.
“And one of the reasons I love that as a writer, is that I am very character-driven and when a drama has to be constructed around ad breaks it creates a very different animal. It’s not one that I think would sit particularly with my style of writing. And therefore, I love the whole Netflix stuff, I think it’s fantastic.”
Her adaptation of Little Women is one of the centrepieces of the BBC’s Christmas offering alongside the Call the Midwife Christmas special.
Series 8 and 9 of Call the Midwife have already been commissioned by the BBC, meaning that the show will be on air until 2020.
After that, Thomas said she wasn’t sure how long Call the Midwife would continue.
“We’re about to air series 7, with the Christmas special on Christmas Day. We have already had series 8 and 9 commissioned.
“So whether it would be for years and years or just a few years we don’t know.
“What’s been interesting for me this year is to do something else alongside Call the Midwife [Little Women]. I have been able to do both which gives me confidence that I can stay with Call the Midwife until the end.
“Because it doesn’t mean I can’t do other things. I think with Call the Midwife, for all of us who work on it, it’s much uncharted waters. Very few drama series run for nine years. And when we started everybody said it was going to be a flop and it just wasn’t. But we got 8 million overnights [in the ratings] for the first episode and it hasn’t really lost that.”
She said changing the Call the Midwife cast over the years – including losing big stars like Miranda Hart who played Chummy – has helped the drama stay fresh.
“There’s natural cast wastage. We have never sacked anybody. But it’s very natural for something that runs for a long time that actors, especially younger actors, will want to go and spread their wings and see what else is out there.
“But it’s a medical workplace drama and its natural that new characters come in and at every turn it’s refreshed our brand. I think that’s a reason why it doesn’t feel stale.”