It’s a diplomatic spat which has the BBC and Netflix battling for TV supremacy.

Rival drama series both called The Diplomat are set to go head-to-head this spring after the streaming giant declined to back down over its latest thriller.

Producers have been left frustrated, believing the clash will confuse viewers and potentially threaten their show’s prospects on the international market.

Launching this month, Netflix’s The Diplomat stars Keri Russell as Kate Wyler, the new US Ambassador to the United Kingdom, who must use her crisis management skills to forge strategic alliances in London and defuse international tensions.

It airs as a UK series with the same title, made by World Productions, the team behind Line of Duty, concludes its first series.

Peaky Blinder star Sophie Rundle plays Laura Simmonds, a British consul in Barcelona who becomes entangled with a security service operation when she investigates the death of a young English man in the city.

BBC Studios is currently selling the UK Diplomat series, which aired on the UKTV-owned Alibi channel, to international channels.

Its job is being made more complicated by the global release of the Netflix series which is being tipped as the next Homeland.

Danny Sapani and Sophie Rundle on set in Barcelona filming The Diplomat for Alibi (photo – BBC Studios)
Keri Russell as Kate Wyler and David Gyasi as Austin Dennison in the opening episode of  Netflix series The Diplomat (photo - Alex Bailey/Netflix)
Keri Russell as Kate Wyler and David Gyasi as Austin Dennison in the opening episode of Netflix drama, The Diplomat (photo – Alex Bailey/Netflix)

There are similarities between the two shows. In the Netflix series, Wyler is trying to survive a fraught marriage to fellow career diplomat Hal Wyler, played by Rufus Sewell. Rundle’s Diplomat is also struggling with her relationship with a fellow career diplomat.

The Diplomat UK was announced in 2020, well before the Netflix series. However shooting was delayed by Covid.

A source on the UK show said: “It’s confusing for viewers around the world and frustrating. Our Diplomat was announced before the Netflix series so they must have known about it but went ahead with the same title anyway. Why not call it The Ambassador?”

Neither party is so far willing to change the title of their show to avoid confusion. The Diplomat was previously used for a 2009 TV movie thriller starring Dougray Scott. But broadcasters will usually change the title of a show if it is too similar to one currently in circulation.

TV insiders said Netflix had invested millions of dollars in The Diplomat, created by showrunner Debora Cahn, who worked on The West Wing and Homeland.

Cahn said she came up with the idea for The Diplomat during her tenure as a writer-producer on Homeland. She spoke to a range of experts, including ambassadors, to bring veracity to the storylines.

However, one more optimistic figure said the Netflix series could actually drive viewers towards the Alibi show, since TV listings guides are warning audiences that the two shows are not connected.

Netflix, World Productions and BBC Studios were approached to comment.

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