Network Distributing has gone into liquidation: who now will bring rare TV to the masses?

Deej Johnson bids a sad farewell to the company that released rare TV titles for nearly 30 years

Remember Slinger’s Day? The Thames Television series that saw Bruce Forsyth turn his hand to sitcom? No? 

Well, look… I’m not surprised. Hardly anyone remembers it! But among those of us that do there was great sadness last week on hearing that the kings of rare TV, Network Distributing, had entered liquidation.

For those not in the know, Network Distributing were licensed to release hundreds of rare, cult and classic television shows on DVD and Blu-ray. Among the very many titles in their catalogue were some absolute gems: The Galton and Simpson Playhouse, for example, and The Prisoner. They put out Monty Python discs, collections of Tommy Cooper’s work and even the ITV series of Morecambe and Wise. They also carried fantastic material from the Gerry Anderson stable…

This included Stingray, Fireball XL5, and the terrific 2014 documentary Filmed in Supermarionation. Beyond that, I think I can safely say that – in their 26-year history – Network released more offbeat, Brit-flavoured and hard-to-find titles than any other stable. The website truly was a treasure trove, and their closure is a rabbit punch to all media collectors of a certain age.

Unfortunately, age is likely to be at the heart of the company’s problems in two different ways. First, we live in the age of streaming TV services – which, I say with bemusement, continually forsake niche-within a-niche programmes. Surely online is where much of this material would find a new audience?!

Deej Johnson
Second, the inevitable consequences of age will, of course, be responsible for shrinking the Network fan base itself. That’s because very few of Network’s licences were contemporary… Indeed, much of their catalogue went back to what many consider the golden age of British television – and then some. Indeed, I think it’s fair to assume, more for context than ego, that I would be something of a pup next to the typical Network customer.

Nevertheless, looking at the DVDs on my shelves, I can see the Network logo emblazoned on covers here, there and everywhere. There aren’t hundreds, to be sure, and they aren’t stored together because everything I own is filed in the Matthew 7:7 system – “Seek and ye shall find.” Despite that, I doubt I’m alone in mourning the loss of this once mighty, always loved licensee…

No doubt the owners of these more obscure brands will lament the loss of Network knowing that some of their shows just became a lot harder to track down. With them out of sight and perhaps – eventually – out of mind, the ripple effect may also lap at the shores of their wider licensing potential… It might now prove just a little trickier to convince licensees of their value. I won’t end on that thought, though. Instead, I will simply thank the company’s staff for their sterling work over the years… With a heavy heart, the Brands Untapped team wishes you all the very best.

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