British TV content exports touch $974 million in 2004

MUMBAI: Britain's export earnings from exploitation of television programmes has touched $974 million in 2004, up from $921 million a year ago.

The figures were released by Pact, the British trade body for independent TV, feature film, animation and interactive media companies.

The surge in exports was fuelled by sales from home video, DVD and entertainment shows to international broadcasters. The growth in DVD/video revenue  up 25 per cent to $159 million in 2004, from $128 million in 2003  is symptomatic of the increased attention UK rights holders are giving to this key area of rights exploitation. Many companies are coming up with increasingly innovative ways of packaging DVDs, including the selling of part works  whereby magazines are packaged with a video/DVD and sold in newsagents and kiosks.

Also on the increase is the revenue from the sale of finished TV programmes  as opposed to formats  which is up 12 per cent. This shows that despite the rise of the programme format, overseas buyers are still happy to buy ready made shows from the UK.

Export earnings from format sales and co-productions, however, declined. This is due to the fact that UK formats rights holders are increasingly taking on the production responsibility of formats in other territories around the world, as opposed to just licensing the rights to an overseas broadcaster or co-producing them with a local production company. In these instances, revenue is counted by companies as production income and not as sales revenue  from which the exports statistics are compiled.

RDF, Fremantle Media, TWI and The Television Corporation are examples of UK companies that produce their own overseas versions of formats. The report notes that the move towards producing formats locally, as opposed to simply licensing product, represents a maturation of the market and the growing confidence of UK producers, who already lead the way in international format development and production.

Pact's list of the UK's best selling programmes in 2004 serves to highlight the incredibly diverse nature of the UK TV export market. The top 25 best selling programmes cover a range of genres from sport to drama to light entertainment, factual, reality, comedy, documentary, music, action, animation and variety.

A sports-based show actually tops the list of exports. Gillette World Sport, which is billed as "the world's most popular show", was seen in 220 countries.

Commenting on the report, Britain's creative industries minister James Purnell said, "British TV is loved around the world. These statistics prove that. From established favourites like Midsomer Murders to alternative comedy such as Green Wing, our television companies continue to strike a chord with a global audience."

Adds Pact chairwoman Louise Pedersen, "This year's export figures reflect the incredible range of creative programming talent that exists in Britain. Distributors have been able to build their businesses particularly in new areas of rights exploitation with the result that more audiences than ever across the world are now watching programmes and formats created in the UK."

2004 Export Survey Summary Findings

 Revenues from DVD and video sales jump 25 per cent

 Sales of finished programmes up 12 per cent

 The US accounts for around 40 per cent of all the UK's export revenue  generating $418 million in 2004, although sales to North America posted an overall five per cent decline over 2003 figures

 Asian and Eastern European markets made a comeback climbing to 18 per cent and 28 per cent respectively

 Germany and Spain both posted a decline due to difficult trading conditions

 Revenues from licensing and merchandising stay static at one per cent

UK drama perennially popular: British drama is still popular around the world in 2004  from perennials such as Midsomer Murders (204 countries), Ultimate Force (140) and Prime Suspect (122) to the more contemporary hits like Bad Girls (88) and Footballers Wives (36). Current British favourites Shameless and Green Wing are sold to 15 countries apiece. The appearance of Midsomer Murders, Mr Bean and The Thin Blue Line in the Top 25 Best Selling Programmes of 2004 mean that the likes of Rowan Atkinson, Helen Mirren and John Nettles are among the most recognised British TV faces around the globe.

Entertainment hits a home run: Idols continues to go from strength to strength. In India Sony rolled out Indian Idol last year. The Orange British Film Awards (Bafta) aired for the first time on Star World earlier this year. This shows that the good old entertainment/variety show is far from being yesterday's news and furthermore, strikes a cord with viewers overseas, having being sold to over 150 countries.

Says Pact CEO John McVay, "The export revenues from 2004 show that despite difficult trading conditions in some key markets, the diverse nature of the UK TV market means the industry is still able to deliver significant revenues back to the UK, by exploiting a variety of platforms and genres. The sheer range of programmes that consistently sell across the world proves our domestic market really is a one-stop shop for overseas buyers."

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