Report: Record investment in UK drama

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Increases in both co-commissions between traditional broadcasters and SVoDs, and in sole commissions, drove investment in British TV drama to a record £2.6 billion (€2.88bn) in 2019, according to a new report commissioned by COBA, the industry association for commercial broadcasters and on-demand services.

Fuelling the growth, co-commissions surged by 17 per cent, from 30 in 2018 to 35 in 2019. Sole commissions also increased across the sector, with PSBs, pay-TV and streamers all upping activity. The result SVoD drove total investment in high end TV shows from all parties to increase by 19 per cent.

Co-commissions, however, were by far the single most important category of production, with BBC sole commissions coming next at 26. The report stated that: “Co-commissioning is more important for high end TV drama productions than any single broadcaster or platform.”

The report, from industry analyst Ben Keen, defines co-commissions as shows with significant third-party involvement at production stage, noting that third party investment in dramas made by Public Service Broadcasters is now greater than the direct spending by those PSB broadcasters themselves. PSB drama production totalled £664 million, of which 56 per cent came from third parties.  

Increase in spend per hour on shows also rose sharply, up nearly 60 per cent year on year. Yet, with their production budgets boosted by third-party spending increasing, PSBs themselves actually reduced their direct spend per hour by £45,000 year on year, while increasing the number of hours of drama they were able to broadcast compared to 2018.

“These impressive figures demonstrate the strength and variety of UK drama production,” noted John Whittingdale, Minister for Media and Data. “With continued government support through the high-end TV tax relief and the £500 million film and TV production restart scheme, I’m confident we’ll see its continued success.”

‘This is a golden age for UK drama, as this report shows,” declared Adam Minns, Executive Director of COBA. “What comes through loud and clear is how the UK benefits from a mixed ecology of different players, and PSB non PSB. The PSBs have successfully leveraged their positions at the heart of the sector to capitalise on the opportunities created by other players.”


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