A report by Ampere Analysis shows that Europe’s public service and commercial broadcasting groups have accelerated their commissioning activity as they emerge from pandemic into a rapidly shifting landscape.
Many broadcasters are in a challenging position, having been damaged by the effects of Covid-19 on advertiser confidence, experiencing gradually declining audience figures and facing down the steady entrance of major global streaming firms who are encroaching on their home territories. As the report shows, the top 10 broadcasting groups have started to return fire.
In Q2 2021, the leading free-to-air groups in Western Europe’s largest TV markets (UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy) commissioned nearly 600 brand new first run TV shows for their channels and VoD products, an increase of 23 per cent over pandemic-hit Q2 2020, and 64 per cent over the same period in 2019.
Both Scripted and Unscripted commissions have seen gains on the pre-pandemic era. Nearly double the number of new Scripted projects were commissioned in Q2 2021 compared to Q2 2020, and nearly a quarter more than in the same period in 2019. Unscripted shows (largely Documentary, Reality and Light Entertainment shows) have been the largest beneficiaries, accounting for 80 per cent of all commissions in the first half of 2021.
“This ramp up of activity is as much out of necessity for some groups as it is a strategic choice,” suggests Richard Broughton, Research Director, Ampere Analysis. “Many of Europe’s commercial broadcasters have historically relied on licensed content to fill linear channel schedules, with US imports a key source of high-quality content. But as US media giants increasingly turn their attention to their own platforms, buyers have needed to find alternative options to bolster their slates for both linear and VoD to compensate for an increasingly siloed market.”
On-demand now a growing factor in commissioning behaviour
Owned-and-operated On-demand platforms have also been a slowly increasing factor in broadcasters’ commissioning strategies. In Q2 2021, commissions for VoD-debut titles represented 16 per cent of all new commissions from major groups in the largest Western European markets, up five points compared to the same period pre-pandemic.
Commercial groups ITV and RTL have grown significantly in terms of new commissions over the past two years. ITV commissioned over 60 new shows in the first half of 2021, versus 31 in the same period in 2019. Similarly, RTL doubled the volume of new projects for its properties, with over 90 projects greenlit in H1 2021 compared to 42 in the same period in 2019.
In general, European groups have been slower to prioritise VoD-based projects than their US counterparts, which have taken a more aggressive approach with their own commissioning. Titles made for VoD platforms now represent between 35 per cent-40 per cent of new projects greenlit by US broadcast and network groups.
“Commissions for VoD-debut titles represented 16 per cent of all new commissions from major groups in the largest Western European markets in Q2 2021,” advises Broughton. “In the same period pre-pandemic in 2019, VoD commissions represented 11 per cent of broadcaster-led projects. Progress to accelerate the number of on-demand debuts is slow, with broadcasters having to manage their VoD ambitions alongside the competing demands of meeting the needs of broadcast audiences (and advertisers) and managing squeezed finances. But the major European broadcasters should not underestimate the important role that VoD-specific commissions play in driving adoption of their own streaming products,” he warns.