U.K. Scripted Content Drops, But BBC Holds Steady: Ampere

U.K. Scripted Content Drops, But BBC Holds Steady: Ampere

Scripted TV content commissions — including for dramas, sci-fi, crime and thriller programming — dropped 18 percent in the U.K. in 2023, a report from research firm Ampere Analysis has found.

“Major U.K. broadcasters cut spend and most global SVODs trimmed investment in international content,” but U.K. public service broadcaster BBC held steady, according to the report.

“Changes in consumer behavior and a weak advertising market saw pay TV operators and commercial free-to-air broadcasters slash scripted commissions,” Ampere explained. 

U.K. scripted commissioning activity fell by 48 percent at British pay TV players, 36 percent at commercial free-to-air broadcasters and 21 percent at subscription streaming services, according to its data.

“However, the BBC’s scripted commissions remained stable with the public service broadcaster focusing on kids, family and crime genres, and ramping up literary adaptations and multiple-episode series orders,” Ampere highlighted. Together with the drops elsewhere, this allowed the BBC to boost its share of U.K. scripted TV commissions to 50 percent last year.

How can these findings be explained at a time when then BBC has unveiled cost-cutting measures in response to a freeze in the license fee it receives from U.K. taxpayers and broader economic pressures?

“One of the actions was to cut 1,000 hours of original programming annually and trim spending on original content,” Ampere explained. “However, the impact of these reductions has initially been felt by reductions in cheaper-to-produce unscripted programming.”

The research firm also sees more co-commissioning, which is popular among European broadcasters, as a potential area for further BBC savings. Last year, 13 percent of the BBC’s scripted commissions ordered were co-commissions, Ampere said. “

German broadcaster ZDF uses co-commissioning more extensively, with over 30 percent of its scripted output co-commissioned,” the report highlighted. “The BBC’s late 2022 co-production deal with Disney Branded Television for Doctor Who offers an idea of how funding for high-end scripted commissioning could evolve in the U.K.”

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