A wide-ranging survey of U.K. independent production companies has revealed that international streamers are more supportive of them than broadcasters in a pandemic-struck landscape.
The survey, undertaken by trade publication Broadcast, shows that falling margins are the greatest concern among the indies, as voiced by 26% of respondents. The survey covered 120 of the U.K.’s leading producers. Some 27% of respondents said U.K. broadcasters aren’t footing the bill for extra costs arising from COVID-19. They were rarely willing to contribute more than half of these additional costs, and frequently less than that, respondents said.
Producers in the U.K. face increasing costs of up to 25% as a result of the pandemic, covering new protocols around social distancing, travel, insurance and the additional time needed for hiring and testing crew members before starting filming.
A producer said: “International networks are footing our COVID costs, but U.K. broadcasters are only covering them if they can recoup off the international sales.”
Many of the producers surveyed said that streamers like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus and HBO are clients they most want to work with. Of these, Netflix topped the list, emerging as the strongest broadcaster in the eyes of the production community. It was selected by nearly 40% of respondents, more than twice the amount who voted for the next highest broadcaster, the BBC.
The enthusiasm for Netflix is understandable, given that, at the height of the pandemic, the streamer announced it was doubling its U.K. production budget to $1 billion. Some of the biggest Netflix hits, such as “The Crown” and “Sex Education,” are produced in the U.K.
“There was great over-caution by the BBC,” a producer said. “Our commissions for the streamers were much better handled via protocols, guidance and fair financial support.”
“We no longer put any time into pursuing original commissions with U.K. broadcasters,” said another.
The damning survey results come as a U.K. parliamentary committee report concluded that U.K. broadcasters are being “let down” by antiquated legislation preventing them from competing on a level playing ground with the streamers.