U.K. TV Production Rebounds, Turnover Nearly at Pre-COVID Levels

TV production turnover in the U.K. has bounced back to nearly pre-COVID levels, new research revealed today.

The latest figures show U.K. TV production generated £3.251 billion ($3.750 billion) in 2021 according to producers’ body Pact.

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In 2019, turnover was at £3.330 billion ($3.840 billion).

Pact, which has collated a report on the U.K. TV sector every year since 2009, suggests the rebound is due to sector innovations and productions delayed from 2020 as well as the Government’s production re-start scheme, which provided COVID insurance for productions. However, that is set to end this fall.

In less favourable news, international turnover, which is led by the U.S., fell for the second year running in 2021 to £952 million, down from a high of £1.251 billion. This was somewhat mitigated by the 10% increase in international sales of finished shows. This was thanks to the U.K. being one of the first countries to re-launch production during the pandemic, which meant that, with other territories starved for content, they were happy to buy from the U.K. to fill their schedules. Now that much of the world has returned to semblance of normality, that advantage may dry up.

The report also found that international digital commissions – which refers to streaming platforms such as Netflix and Amazon – had shrunk by £57 million. Meanwhile U.K. digital commissioning revenue (e.g. BBC iPlayer, Channel 4’s All 4 etc) increased by a whopping 191%. This is a trend likely to continue as U.K. broadcasters continue to invest heavily in their streaming platforms, with the BBC, ITV Channel 4 all committing to digital-first strategies. In contrast, international streamers are tightening their belts as they ride out the cost-of-living crisis that has seen subscriber numbers stagnate or fall.

The figures also showed that domestic TV revenues had increased by 30% to £2.196 billion and drama accounted for 35% of U.K. spend in 2021 followed by entertainment and factual entertainment at 28% and 20% respectively.

The figures come from a detailed financial survey filled in by 73 production companies, which represent 78% of the industry’s turnover.

“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,” said Pact CEO John McVay.

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

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