Revenues from the international sale of UK programmes increased 25% in the latest measurement period taking the total to £980 million (US$1.6 billion). The UK Television Exports survey, which covers sales from 2008, shows that the US remained the largest buyer of UK product as Australia and New Zealand registered sharp increases in the amount spent on UK shows.
Industry association Pact welcomed the figures, but was quick to note that UK producers and distributors’ profit margins are under threat in the current environment. Pact chief executive John McVay told TBIvision that UK companies are increasingly looking abroad to mitigate the effects of a tough domestic market.
“The numbers are up because everyone is working harder to get money from the international market with less coming from the UK,” McVay said.
Privately, some distributors were concerned that the numbers suggested all is well in the sector without highlighting the challenges faced.
“There’s a risk that the broadcasters see the figures and think producers and distributors are making too much and then try to pay less, but the fact that they are doing well is actually good for everyone,” McVay said. “At least £200 million of the total is going in to making programmes.”
The US remained by far the biggest buyer of UK programming, accounting for £350 million of the total, an 11% increase year on year. Canada, Germany, France and Spain were, respectively, the next biggest customers for UK distributors and all generated increased revenues for UK companies in 2008.
Australia and New Zealand notched the largest annual increased in sales, up 65% taking the total to £127 million.
One surprise was that coproduction activity was sharply down. Revenues from copros were £41 million, a 28% decrease on the previous year.
Next year’s report will cover 2009. Despite the fact it will capture numbers for a period in which the UK was in recession, McVay is confident that distributors will be able to register another year of growth. “In a recession, people don’t just throw up their hands. The opposite is true. When the domestic market is tough, companies look everywhere they can to generate revenues.”