One of the biggest, and most useful info-dumps about UK TV production has landed today with the publication of the Oliver and Ohlbaum / Pact Census (which is also published alongside a briefing on the impact of Covid this year).
The Guardian’s report focusses on one of the issues most of concern to Bectu:
“The UK’s traditional broadcasters cut the amount spent on British-made shows to the lowest point in a decade last year, as the pandemic played havoc with channel budgets and filming schedules.
Spending by the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 on programmes from UK production companies dropped by 10% to £1.16bn, the lowest level since 2011 and the first fall in five years.”
The chart showing the first dip below 50% for primary UK commissions looks like this:
This is not unexpected, and (some personal speculation here) UK commissions as a % of UK productions will fall dramatically over the next 3-5 years as vast new capacities for production is opened up. Whether the primary UK commissions number goes down is another question (I suspect it may).
There are a lot of factors in play here –
- Covid-19 disruption of productions,
- the growth of SVoD demand that was happening anyway,
- the growth of SVoD demand was further enhanced by the vacuum of Covid-boredom
- the growth in studio capacity (see above)
- the skills capacity issues that the UK is beginning to face
- BBC defunding
- C4 – potential privatisation
- SVoD productions pricing UK commissions out of the market (when capacity is limited anyway)…
In short, this may be very good news for Bectu members in terms of work availability. It may be less good in terms of the quality of work in two respects:
- there will be a lot of people acting up, and struggling to manage long-hour days
- the productions may not be ones that are popular with UK audiences (and this is always a factor – people tend to like working on productions that will be successful in the UK).
Finally, there is another key factor here: The amount spent on non-London commissions grew to 45% – up from 43% last year. So many organisations are putting out their annual report because they always do, but I suspect this years’ one will be fairly useless in the long term – so many Covid anomalies.
Where is the future of UK production heading? Are London’s expansions going to bring the centre of gravity back firmly onto the capital, or will the nations and regions match the growth in any way? The South West and Wales have done particularly well according to these figures.
— Pact (@PactUK) September 8, 2021
At the moment, the trends are gradually away from London in percentage terms. Colleagues in Regional Production Division will be interested in the Nations and Regions annex to the census – here.