U.K. producers bridge funding gap

Broadcasters reduce investment in shows

LONDON — British shingles are playing an increasingly important part in funding U.K. TV shows as broadcasters trim their commissioning budgets.

This is according to research commissioned for producers’ lobby group Pact, “The Economics of U.K. TV Content Supply — Challenges and Opportunities to 2020,” by media consultants Oliver and Ohlbaum Associates.

It suggested that indies plowed up to £190 million ($290 million) of their own funds into new programs during 2008.

The statistics appear to confirm Pact’s own research, which suggests that as the price U.K. broadcasters are prepared to pay for shows declines, shingles are increasingly stepping in to fund the gap.

Some industry leaders, including the former chief creative officer of Endemol, Peter Bazalgette, are worried that the quality of British shows will suffer as Blighty’s webs spend less coin on commissioning original shows.

While highlighting the growing contribution by shingles to program funding, especially in high-cost genre like drama, the Pact report demonstrates the strain on the local TV funding system.

Even before the recession kicked in, 30% of producers suffered from postponed commissioning decisions and a 4% reduction in the prices broadcasters are prepared to pay for shows.

Pact calculates that from 2005 to the end of this year, investment by the five main U.K. networks (BBC1 and 2, ITV, Channel 4 and Five) is likely to have declined by more than 16% in real terms.

Pact CEO John McVay said: “It is no coincidence that exports of U.K. television content are up 39% on 2003.

“This report shows that the independent production sector is reinvesting those revenues and has become a significant investor in the production of U.K. content.”

He added: “As we move to a more non-linear world, the broadcasters’ ability to restrain rights from new platforms could have a detrimental effect on the development of Digital Britain.”

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