Top distributors are WB and Disney

Some e3.9 billion ($4.8 billion) was spent in Europe on acquiring finished TV programs and format licenses last year, according to a report from market research company Content Economics Research.

The U.K. was the largest market in Europe, with broadcasters investing an estimated $979 million on acquired shows and formats, according to “The Acquired Content Market in Europe” report.

The top distribs were Warner Bros. and Disney, followed by the other Hollywood studios, with BBC Worldwide topping the league of European distributors.

While U.S. series dominated the European market, Content Economics doubted whether the new crop of Hollywood shows would command the same prices as skeins including “Desperate Housewives,” “Lost,” “24″ and “House.”

The price of acquired content plummeted during the recession as broadcasters slashed budgets, but the outlook for the future is a little more positive, said the report.

The formats license biz remained buoyant throughout the downturn as broadcasters saw formats as less risky propositions.

There is likely to be consolidation in international TV distribution sector, the report said. The supply of new commissioned content was diminishing, driving up prices paid to producers, but broadcasters were dropping the amount they would pay for product, so squeezing distributors’ margins.

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