British Drama Sees Record Investment


According to a new report commissioned by COBA (the Association for Commercial Broadcasters and On-Demand Services), investment in British TV drama hit a record £2.6 billion last year.

Co-commissions were up by 17 percent, from 30 in 2018 to 35 in 2019. Sole commissions also increased, with public broadcasters, pay-TV and SVOD streamers all ramping up activity. These combined factors drove total investment in high-end TV shows from all parties to increase by 19 percent.

Co-commissions were by far the single most important category of production, the report states, with BBC sole commissions coming next at 26. “Co-commissioning is more important for high-end TV drama productions than any single broadcaster or platform,” the report said.

Third-party investment in dramas made by public-service broadcasters is now greater than the direct spending by those PSBs themselves. PSB drama production totaled £664 million, of which 56 percent came from third parties.

Spend per hour on shows was up nearly 60 percent year on year. Even with their production budgets boosted by third-party spending increasing, PSBs actually reduced their direct spend per hour by £45,000 year on year, while increasing the number of hours of drama they were able to broadcast compared to 2018.

John Whittingdale, minister for media and data, said: “These impressive figures demonstrate the strength and variety of U.K. drama production. With continued government support through the high-end TV tax relief and the £500 million film and TV production restart scheme, I’m confident we’ll see its continued success.”

Adam Minns, executive director of COBA, said: “This is a golden age for U.K. drama, as this report shows. What comes through loud and clear is how the U.K. benefits from a mixed ecology of different players, PSB and non-PSB. The PSBs have successfully leveraged their positions at the heart of the sector to capitalize on the opportunities created by other players.”