U.K. TV blooms in ’03

Exports up 22% overall to total of $921 mil

LONDON — British TV sales to the U.S. surged by 41% to $399 million last year, the industry reported Thursday.

Overall, British television exports were up 22% on 2002 to a total of $921 million, according to the British Television Distributors’ Assn., the biggest hike since the group began compiling the figures in 1998.

Sales to the U.S. were led by fare like “Living With Michael Jackson” and drama skeins including “Prime Suspect.”

Growth in the DVD and licensing and merchandising markets helped propel sales across the Atlantic.

Co-productions, 90% of which came from the U.S., increased by 38% to $115 million.

Blighty’s media secretary Tessa Jowell said the figures proved that British TV is “the envy of the world.”

BTDA chairman Ian Jones described 2003 as a milestone year for the industry. “Economic conditions were a little easier last year than previously. But most importantly the U.K. did of course have some fantastic shows out there in the marketplace.”

Jones said renewed growth in sales to Western Europe, up by an average of 38% in 2003 after years of decline, was particularly welcome.