Drama propels UK exports to record high of $1.8bn as global SVOD sales surge


UK dramas such as Bodyguard and Killing Eve helped to propel the country’s TV exports to record sales of £1.4bn ($1.8bn) during 2018/19, while worldwide deals between UK companies and global SVOD’s surged by more than 50% over the same period.

The figures, revealed today in UK trade body Pact’s TV Exports Report, show that drama accounted for 48% of total sales over the past 12 months, with non-scripted factual series such as Blue Earth II pulling in 23% of revenue and entertainment shows including Love Island accounting for 15%.

Demand for older content also remained strong, with programming that was four or more years old estimated to account for 36% of sales. Broadcasters and streamers also spent similar amounts on UK shows, with free TV outfits accounting for £322m, pay TV buyers spending £293m and SVOD’s contributing £342m.

Territory breakdown

That helped drive figures up by 7% overall on 2017/18, with the US remaining the dominant buyer, accounting for 32% (£444m) of all sales. North American revenues as a whole were down 1% year-on-year to £531m.

France (£115m) and Australia (£96m) maintained their positions in the top three biggest export markets, but revenue from the Nordics (£85m) grew by 26% and Italian spending was up by 28% to £44m.

MENA (Middle East & North Africa) and Latin America also showed strong growth, with 28% and 29% revenue increases respectively on the previous year, but sub-Saharan Africa sales were down by more than a quarter to £20m.

India, Latin America and China were cited as countries/regions offering greatest growth potential. It remains to be seen how dealings with the latter could change over the coming months, however, after TBI revealed that Pact is putting the brakes on all dealings with the country amidst a tense political climate and escalating concerns over IP infringement.

The report, produced for Pact by media consultancy 3Vision, also showed that UK revenues from worldwide deals with services such as Netflix and Amazon were up to £58m, a 56% increase on last year. North American firms were the key partners for co-productions, contributing £81m.

Formats vs finished tape

Europe maintained its position as the primary destination for formats, with £47m in each of the past two years. The sale of formats to the US doubled from £9m to £20m in the past year, but European companies remained the key buyers, accounting for 55% (£47m). However, formats accounted for just 6% of UK total sales, with finished programmes securing 69%.

Pact CEO John McVay said: “It’s no surprise that we’re seeing a record year for TV exports. The compelling stories that our creatives craft resonate beyond borders. It’s fantastic to see the success of the TV industry – and in particular drama – contributing so much to the UK economy.”

The report was funded by partners BBC Studios, ITV Studios and the UK’s department for international trade.

Liz Truss, who heads up the DIT, said that British TV and film exports “have had another blockbuster year”, adding that the figures highlighted “the incredible overseas demand for the UK’s cultural exports.

“The USA remains the biggest market for our world-beating TV and film industry, and once we leave the EU we will negotiate an ambitious new free trade agreement with the States to ensure even more of our industries can benefit from this golden opportunity to improve our trading relationship.”

Paul Dempsey, president of global distribution at BBCS, added: “More than ever, British television is internationally recognised as world class. The quality of work our programme makers are producing is second to none and it’s an absolute privilege to take their output to audiences across the globe.”

Ruth Berry, MD of ITVS Global Entertainment, said the report highlighted the success of UK shows, such as her company’s World War Two drama World On Fire, which has reached 120 territories, and forthcoming series The War Of The Worlds, which has sold around the world prior to airing in the UK.

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