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It has been an impressive year for UK television exports, according to the latest UK Television Exports Report, with sales to international markets in 2015/16 rising to £1.326 billion (€1.544bn), a 10 per cent increase from £1.205 billion in 2014/15.
The report also shows a sizeable increase in activity in the Chinese market, which is up 40 per cent on 2014/15. A co-production treaty between the UK and China signed in December 2016 means that this figure could be set to rise even more in years to come.
The USA remains the UK’s largest export market, and sales increased by 16 per cent in 2015/16 to £497 million. Australia is the second largest market, with sales of £106 million.
Exports of finished television programming remained the largest source of revenue at £668 million, in line with 2014/15. However, sales of Digital Rights increased 79 per cent to £248 million (almost a fifth of total revenue) making it the second largest source of TV revenue.
Mark Garnier, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department for International Trade (DIT) and author of the report’s foreword said: “From The Night Manager to Downton Abbey, UK TV exports continue to go from strength to strength and UK programmes are some of the most recognisable and eagerly anticipated in the world. British innovation and creativity are considered among the greatest assets of the sector and this report shows that there is important future growth potential supported, in part, by funding from the Department for International Trade. From small creative digital and animation companies to major production houses, the UK leads the world in television production and I look forward to continuing to work with the sector to grow UK exports.”
Economic and political uncertainty
Economic and political uncertainty, particularly in Europe, was seen by respondents to the report as one of the obstacles to further growth next year. Currently, Europe is the biggest market for sales of formats, and exports to France grew 5 per cent to £73 million in 2015/16, making it Britain’s biggest non-English speaking market and its third biggest overall.
However, respondents remained confident that TV export revenues would increase next year from further sales in both established markets such as the USA and newer markets in territories such as Asia, Latin America and Russia.
John McVay, CEO of producers’ trade body Pact, commented: “UK television content continues to be highly sought after around the world. The impressive level of year-on-year growth demonstrates that the sector is embracing the challenges of the global marketplace and is adept at exploiting new opportunities. However, with Brexit on the horizon, continued support from the government will be crucial if we are to ensure that UK companies can carry on punching above their weight on the world stage.”
Paul Dempsey, President Global Markets, BBC Worldwide, said: “As the world finds more ways to watch great British shows, our content is riding a wave of popularity. The growing appeal of authored British drama in the US and the hunger for titles that speak to a young, upmarket audience in China has put the UK in the premier league of international TV distribution.”
Ruth Berry, Managing Director, ITV Studios Global Entertainment, said: “Our industry is changing rapidly and that evolution has brought opportunity for UK producers. We’re working with an ever-growing number of broadcasters and OTT providers in all regions, often partnering with multiple broadcasters across territories to green-light a show.”
“And as the report lays out, China continues to present interesting opportunities. Last year we announced that China’s CCTV has acquired Thunderbirds Are Go and more recently we signed a deal with Huace Film & TV to produce a Chinese version of an existing ITV Studios scripted format.”
Other key findings in the report include: