BBC wins bidding war for Spielberg sci-fi series

The BBC will announce today that it has bought Steven Spielberg's latest television epic, Taken, a 10-episode mini-series which chronicles the extra-terrestrial experiences of three families over 50 years. It will be shown on BBC2 in January after the corporation won a bidding war with Channel 4.

The project, produced by Spielberg, marks his return to the science fiction of ET and Close Encounters of the Third Kind after recently working on less ethereal subjects such as the Second World War. It also signals the renewal of the Hollywood mogul's relationship with the BBC.

Band of Brothers, Spielberg's last television venture, which chronicled the adventures of a unit of American soldiers taking part in the D-Day landings, was last year controversially screened on BBC2. The corporation, which had paid a reported £7m to co-produce the series, had been expected to show Band of Brothers on BBC1, but the channel decided it catered for too much of a niche market.

Programming chiefs insisted yesterday that there had been no such issues with Taken and denied suggestions that the series, which cost £26.6m, was merely a period drama version of The X-Files. Sophie Turner Laing, the BBC's head of programme acquisition, said: "Taken is designed to have a wider appeal than just to fans of sci-fi as it tells the stories of individuals and their interaction over many years. The BBC's role when it acquires international series is to get the best of what is out there and find the sort of programming that we wouldn't do ourselves. We think this is an outstanding example."

The corporation refused to discuss how much it paid for the 10 90-minute episodes. Industry experts said the asking price was likely to be around £2m.

Spielberg said he had relished the opportunity to return to sci-fi. He added: "The thing that always grabs me about it is that it frees the imagination. For me, it's the most liberating genre."