Sales of British TV shows overseas grew 5 per cent to almost £1.28 billion (€1.61bn) last year, with formats such as The X Factor and The Great British Bake Off and dramas including Downton Abbey and Sherlock proving global hits.
The annual TV export report from independent producers’ trade body Pact revealed that for the second year running China represented the fastest growing market for British shows and formats.
The Chinese demand for UK content fuelled a 40 per cent year-on-year rise in the amount spent on programmes to £17 million. Mexico was the second fastest grower, up 23 per cent to almost £1 million.
“China has probably the fastest growing and largest untapped market for UK producers and it is certainly the most intriguing,” said Paul Sandler, the mangaging director of Objective Productions, maker of game-show The Cube. “They still have a real hunger for western formats and techniques and that represents an enormous opportunity over the next few years.”
The survey also shows significant growth in markets including France, up 21 per cent to £37 million, the Netherlands, up 28 per cent to £16 million and Poland, up 21 per cent to £11 million.
In total Europe accounted for 27 per cent of total sales, at £351 million. Australasia remained the UK’s second biggest market at £95 million, even though sales dropped 10 per cent.
The UK television industry’s biggest customer is still by some distance the US, with sales growing more than 10 per cent year-on-year to £523 million, accounting for 47 per cent of all TV export revenue. Including Canada, the overall North American market is worth £598 million, with £156 million coming from TV show sales and £173 million from new commissions for programmes.
A new additional revenue stream that is starting to take off is the sale of digital rights for UK TV shows, which grew 72 per cent year-on-year to £49 million.