The British TV boom that brought you the likes of Netflix The crown could slow, with the latest census from producer trade body Pact showing the lowest level of international television revenue since 2017 and streamer spending down by £50m ($57.7m).
While the entire UK TV market is almost back to pre-Covid levels due to a £500m ($577m) rise in domestic revenues in 2021, the report cited a drop a worrying 12.5% of international turnover to £950 million ($1.1 billion), which is almost a quarter behind the record figure of 2019.
In recent years, the Pact Census has shown significant gains in UK TV revenue from global players, with studios and streamers taking advantage of the plethora of UK talent on and off screen, lower production costs expensive and the country’s legendary tax credit.
But last year, spending by streamers, including Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, fell 16% to £299million, the lowest level since such data began recording in 2018.
Speaking to reporters yesterday morning, Pact CEO John McVay said it was too early to tell whether the numbers were a longer-term trend or a Covid-induced blow due to production delays caused by the pandemic.
He also reported that streamers were bringing in-house shows and examples like the Warner Bros. merger. Discovery leading these conglomerates to ‘take their eyes off the ball’ in the UK.
“We believe there are various forces at play and we will know better next year,” added McVay, who said he had witnessed a strong appetite for UK content in the recent Realscreen market.
McVay has dismissed the idea that US streamers and studios are shifting investment from the UK to other countries like France to cater to the boom in non-English language content.
“I don’t think Netflix is stealing from Britain to pay France,” he added. “The UK is still a major player and money is not moving from market to market.”
McVay’s comments, however, came a day after a similar report in the French TV market showed record international spending of 678 million euros ($672 million) driven by the success of the reimbursement of French tax for international production.
Cost of life
He also ignored concerns that the damaging cost of living crisis will encourage buyers to reject the UK, although he urged UK broadcasters to help independents with these spiraling prices, comparing the situation to the costs additional Covid.
“We are following this very closely,” he added. “[Spiralling costs] are fundamentals that we cannot control and [UK] buyers must be sympathetic to this. We need a sensible discussion about managing those costs.
Domestic spending in the UK market made up for the international shortfall, with an increase of £500m leading to a national record of £1.9bn. This brought the overall market size down to £3.25 billion, close to the record high of £3.33 billion from 2019.
McVay attributed this mainly to increased spending by the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Paramount-owned Channel 5 after a 2020 pandemic in which they had to cancel dozens of projects, although multi-channel spending, primarily from Sky, also doubled to £443m. .
He urged the BBC in particular to continue to increase spending and open more of its schedules to new IP addresses, at a time when the company faces pressure to reboot old hits such as Survivor and Gladiators.
More than a third (35%) of overall spending went to drama, an increase of 6 percentage points from 2020, which McVay expects to continue to increase for the lucrative genre. The figure was 40% in 2019.
Notably, the annual census also showed how the British Indies are consolidating and developing.
Almost 10% of growers made over £70m last year, double the 5% the previous year.
Evidence of channel 4
Channel 4 spent almost two-thirds (61%) of its budget on these big indies – an increase from 55% in 2020 – which McVay says is a good reason to keep the It’s a sin broadcaster in the hands of the public, as the battle for privatization rages on under President Liz Truss.
“It’s a big consequence of the Channel 4 model,” he added. “If you’re a small business looking to grow, a commission from Channel 4 gives you the capital to invest and go global.”
Pact has argued strongly for the privatization to be reversed and recently sent an open letter to Truss and his conservative challenger to leadership Rishi Sunak of over 750 indies urging the winner to end the “damaging” decision.
He said lobbying will continue once Truss installs a culture secretary to replace Nadine Dorries, likely later this week.