UK broadcasters drive TV production recovery more than streamers

UK broadcasters drive TV production recovery more than streamers

UK broadcasters were described as the “driving force” in the UK TV production industry’s recovery, with its total revenues growing 13% from 2020 to 2021.

The Pact Census, an annual report on the state of the UK TV production industry, found revenues had nearly returned to pre-pandemic levels with a total of £3.25bn, £79m behind 2019 revenues.

Primary commissions from UK public service broadcasters, including the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, and Channel 5, and multichannels like Sky, reached an “all-time high” in 2021 of £1.99bn, an increase of £509m on 2020.

Primary commissions were defined as new programmes which have been commissioned by broadcasters, usually involving the sale of primary rights.

The report said: “PSB spend on indie producers grew by 24% and multichannel spend – largely driven by Sky – nearly doubled with an increase of 99%. Increased competition from international streamers, as well as Covid-related production backlogs have driven these increases as broadcasters looked to bolster their portfolio of original programming.”

Domestic TV revenues increased “significantly” last year to £2.19bn, a 30% increase on 2020 and the first time revenues surpassed £2bn.

Drama was the “most valuable genre” making up 35% of all UK spend, followed by entertainment with 28% and factual entertainment at 20%.

Fall in international commissions

While total sector revenues reached £3.25bn in 2021, international revenues fell for a second year in a row to £952m, marking nearly a quarter (24%) decrease on the peak of 2019.

International linear commissions and commissions from standalone on-demand services from Netflix and Amazon Prime declined, with their revenues going down by £57m in 2021 according to the report, with a number of factors cited including “the lingering impact” of COVID-19 and increases in in-house production.

International TV revenues only “shrank slightly” remaining around the £1bn mark, with “a longer COVID-19 hangover” on international productions cited as reason for the decline.

Non-TV or new media revenues, comprising non-TV digital activities like website design, apps, social media administration and games, went up by £4m last year. UK digital commissioning revenue from services including BBC iPlayer and All 4 went up “significantly” by 191% year-on-year.

Commissions outside London bounce back ‘strong’

In 2021, London’s share of production budgets fell below 50% for the first time as 51% of all UK production budgets are now spent in the nations and regions, compared to 47% in 2020.

Strong production hubs in Scotland, Wales, South West and North West accounted for 75% of all of this spend outside London.

The report found UK public service broadcasters were “committed” to productions outside London with their spend making up 65% of the total non-London commissions in 2021, with the BBC the largest spender out of this group even though these figures do not include BBC Studios productions.

International commissioners made up 18% of external commissioning spend.

The Pact Census defines the UK production sector as TV and film production companies in the UK, excluding companies wholly owned by public service broadcasters.

John McVay, Pact CEO, said: “It’s encouraging to see that the production sector has made such a strong recovery following the pandemic, but clearly Covid-related challenges still remain, including a lack of viable insurance options for producers.

“Although international revenue has some way to bounce back, UK indies still pumped close to £1 billion into the UK economy and the ability for the UK to get back into production quickly contributed to its strong recovery.”

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