Apparently, the U.K. has the highest spending on new TV programs of any country, at US$75 per capita. This nugget comes from a report commissioned by the BBC that pegs per-head spend in the U.S. at $65, while Germany rang in at $52 and the tallies for France and Australia were $43 and $26 respectively (see www.bbc.co.uk/info/policies for the full 36-page report).
While the Brits currently maintain a high level of homegrown TV fare, with three-quarters of the content still indigenous, the ‘U.K. Television Content in the Digital Age’ report by Oliver & Ohlbaum Associates warns that proposals to decrease the bbc’s public funding would threaten the television ecosystem that supports this high domestic-program investment threshold, and keeps the U.S. imports at bay. Currently, the U.K. is the second-largest TV-related product exporter, with earnings of $666 million in 2002, second only to the U.S.’s $2.4 billion export tally. According to the report, between $200 million and $300 million of the U.K. export income from program, format, licensing and merchandising is channeled back into programming.
Specifically, the analysis predicts that every pound sterling taken away from BBC public funding would likely decrease overall domestic TV investment by 60 pence, particularly affecting high-end drama, docs and sitcoms. Additionally, the reallocation of public funding to commercial casters would likely diminish the current level of content investment, especially in high-cost genres.
A challenging advertising environment is one reason cited for concern that any new public fund allocation scheme diverting money from the BBC could reduce overall U.K. TV funding, as it could adversely affect the ability of the commercial networks to spend. (ITV currently invests 20% more in original production than required.)
The report also warns that the commercial networks compete in an environment where low-cost programming abounds and is an attractive option for shareholders. The BBC contributes 40% of the £3 billion ($5 billion) per year invested in domestic TV content, while ITV, C4 and Five together put in £1.3 billion/$2.2 billion (43% of all domestic content spend) and pay channels put three percent of revenues into new domestic product [£100 million ($167 million) in 2001]. Acknowledging that international comparisons are tough when drilling down further into content, the report finds U.K. commercial nets give more time to factual programming and news than their global peers.