Global sales of British TV programmes returned to growth in 2021/22 after last year’s pandemic-related decline, according to producers’ alliance Pact.

Total UK TV exports grew by 7% year-on-year to reach a record £1.52 billion, and by 3% compared with 2019/20 levels, according to Pact’s annual TV Export survey.

2. British TV programme exports return to growth


Vigil, BBC

Drama continued to make up the majority of international sales – with The Tourist and Vigil among the most popular titles - but did see a small decline from 53% to 46%.

Entertainment shows – such as Love Island and Masterchef – drove an increase from 15% to 24% in the entertainment genre.

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Once again, the United States was the UK’s biggest TV export market last year, generating £510m and 34% of all exports but is slightly down (11%) compared with its trend defying growth last year.

Australia (£118m), France (£93m), Canada (£92m) and The Nordics region (£92m) completed the top five. Exports to Germany, The Netherlands and Italy all grew by over 40% year-on-year.

Library sales, defined as content aged over four years, continued to be popular overseas with 30% of revenues, marginally down from 33% in 2020/21 but still up on the previous year (22% in 2019/20).

Finished programme sales continue to be the largest contributor to all TV export revenue (64%), with international productions (14%) and formats (12%) taking the next largest share.

The number one ranked market for growth identified by respondents was the USA, followed by China, India, Canada and Mexico.

Defying recent trends, sales to streaming services showed a fall in their share of total TV sales (44% to 40%), perhaps showing the resilience of global broadcasters who now represent 60% of total TV finished programming sales. However, HBO Max, Amazon and Netflix have acquired at least one programme from over 60% of respondents, up significantly from last year.

Compared with last year, more respondents are highlighting the issues around the increased cost of productions and the lack of financing support from commissioners.

Ninety-two per cent of respondents cited increased costs of productions as something that will impact the distribution of UK content in the next 12 months, compared to 69% last year. Whilst 85% of respondents mentioned a lack of financing support from commissioners, up from 44% last year.

“After a period of huge uncertainty during the pandemic, it’s great to see TV exports bouncing back not only to pre-pandemic levels, but to an all-time high. This growth reinforces the UK’s reputation as world class producers of quality TV shows enjoyed by millions of people around the world,” said Pact CEO John McVay.

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