Blighty TV sales boom as format deals sag

2004 sales down 2% from previous year

LONDON — It was a mixed and murky picture for the export of British TV shows in 2004, with revenues booming from program sales and DVD, but slumping from co-production and format deals.

Total sales were up 6% to $974 million, according to official figures. But that rise was entirely due to the inclusion of results from eight distributors not counted in the previous year’s total.

Without the contribution from those eight, the 2004 figure was actually down 2% from the 2003 total of $921 million.

But to confuse the issue further, this statistical decline masks a more positive trend.

The drop was caused by the fall in format sales (down 25%) and co-productions (down 12%). Yet this is the result of British companies producing the foreign versions of their shows themselves, instead of simply licensing the rights to a local broadcaster or producer.

The production income for such shows — produced by the likes of RDF, Fremantle Media, TWI and the Television Corp. — does not fall within the export statistics.

In particular, that may account for the 5% drop in revenues from the U.S. to $381 million — although this was partially offset by a 25% rise in Canadian sales to $38 million. Overall, North America accounts for 40% of U.K. TV exports, with Europe worth 32%.

France, Italy and Scandinavia were up 33%, 20% and 36% respectively, but there were falls in Germany (down 14%), Spain (down 24%) and the rest of Western Europe (down 22%). Asia showed a healthy 18% increase, but Latin America was flat.

The clearest piece of good news for British exporters is the boom in DVD revenues, up 25% to $159 million. Sales of completed programs rose 12% to $415 million.

Among the best-selling shows, new dramas such as “Bad Girls” and “Footballers’ Wives” have joined established favorites include “Midsomer Murders” (now sold to a remarkable 204 countries), “Ultimate Force” and “Prime Suspect.”

Figures are collated by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport for Pact, the org that represents U.K. producers and TV distributors.

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