The big terrestrial channels may be buying fewer shows, but the U.K. remains fertile ground for imports across all genres, especially drama and comedy.“The BBC and ITV are less interested in U.S. shows than they used to be,” says Catherine Powell, who runs Disney’s distribution arm for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. “Channel 4 and Channel 5 are both big buyers and so are Sky and UK TV. The U.K. remains a lively and highly dynamic market.” For all the buzz around social networks, the emergence of new video-on-demand platforms such as Netflix, which claims a million U.K. subscribers, and new connected services like YouView, the popularity of traditional terrestrial TV shows no sign of waning. Deloitte consulting firm calculates that on a typical evening at 9 o’clock some 27 million Brits are watching the box. “Whatever people say, linear TV is here to stay,” observes Emma Scott, managing director of digital satellite platform Freesat. “We watch an average of around 4 1/2 hours a day.” This, of course, translates into plenty of opportunities for distributors. BSkyB’s acquisitions topper Sarah Wright is one of the U.K.’s biggest buyers. Despite the pay box commissioning more British-made fare, she expects her team to be as busy as ever in Cannes. “We always want to get the best entertainment to our customers and will be looking at shows across a wide range of genres,” she says.
STRENGTHS: Major webs ploughing a lot of resources into local drama.
WEAKNESSES: Overreliance on period sagas and revived formats.
SHOWCASE SHOW: “Parade’s End,” scripted by Tom Stoppard, proves ambition is still alive and kicking.