The RealScreen Factual Price Guide

Late last year, RealScreen sent around a survey asking producers and distributors to reveal details on the most intimate and unmentionable of all secrets: license fees. (Insert gnashing of broadcaster teeth here.) The number of responses was surprising - considering the...
March 1, 1999

Late last year, RealScreen sent around a survey asking producers and distributors to reveal details on the most intimate and unmentionable of all secrets: license fees. (Insert gnashing of broadcaster teeth here.) The number of responses was surprising – considering the sensitivity of the information – but so too were some of the patterns brought to light.

The most obvious revelation brought about by examining the charts which follow are the number of territories being plumbed for sales. If you can make a sale in Qatar, you can make a sale anywhere. (Quick quiz: Where the heck is Qatar?) Benelux looks like Japan by comparison.

What the patterns reveal is that non-fiction programming is enjoying the attention of a global marketplace, and more importantly, it is finding broadcasters willing to put pen to check in every corner of the globe.

Granted, fees range from the US$250 mark to $600,000, but as many have pointed out, a sale is a sale, and the little fish can add up to a substantial amount for those with the connections and patience to take advantage of them.

Latin America, the Middle East and Eastern Europe are prime markets for factual, as long as you don’t expect a license fee the size of Kansas from a single phone call. Technology may provide an answer, as satellites offer quick and easy program access to every member of the global village, but judging by the responses to the survey, this non-traditional delivery system isn’t usually accompanied by traditional-sized license fees. However, one thing which a survey such as this one doesn’t provide is movement and trends, and it will be interesting to see how license fees evolve as some of the global and niche markets begin to mature. (So, watch this space…)

The type of programming enjoying the most global appeal wasn’t a surprise. Natural history is the hands-down winner for universal allure. Some of the other results are a little more surprising. Science and technology seem to be doing well, and respondents reported that they could expect, on average, a 22.7% higher fee for this genre of programming. History was also fairly hot at a 15% premium, and reality was no slouch at 13.5%.

It was interesting to note, however, the way in which programs have been selling. The format of choice seems to be the 60-minute one-off, a category into which almost 60% of responses fell. By contrast, the 30-minute and the series don’t appear to have as many possibilities open to them. Whether or not this is a global trend is difficult to say, but it is indicative of a broadcast landscape where programmers prefer the `plug and play’ approach – the top of every hour brings a new program, and broadcasters don’t have to make long-term commitments. The format is also good for do-it-yourself theme nights, and quick programming changes that can take advantage of current events and entertainment trends. Judging by the responses to the survey, however, it could just be indicative of a North American approach to programming (one German producer preferred the 45-minute format, which plays havoc with survey results…), but as the U.S. market goes, so too goes the rest of the world – even if it is kicking and screaming.

Many more patterns become apparent after exploring the charts for a few minutes. The vast majority of the information which follows is contained in a country-by-country breakdown of our reader’s sales experience. Because it is based upon actual sales, the fees listed might not include all platforms, but a blank space can sometimes be as revealing as a dollar amount. It could indicate a market that few are having any luck exploiting or, even better, it might reveal a market into which few have ventured.

The final page of charts include a regional break-down of average fees per platform. It also includes information on producer/distributor relations, as well as library and format data.


Broken down alphabetically by country, the responses for each broadcast platform are listed individually. Should a platform in any particular region not be listed, it is because no respondents named those as platforms as ones into which they had made sales.

Fees listed in the `Average’ column provide a median fee for the responses from a specific platform in that particular region. In cases where there were a large number of responses, and especially in those cases where responses varied a great deal, the low and high responses are also listed. Wherever fee responses are not likely representative of a region, a note has been made.

Prices listed for series indicate the fee per episode.

Please keep in mind that this information represents the results of an ‘honor system’ and RealScreen cannot vouch for the integrity or validity of the information provided by individual companies.

See also:

A View to a Sale: The Middle East

A License to Kill (For): U.S. fees still top the scale

The Format Who Left Me

From Russia With Love: Eastern Europe

About The Author
Jillian Morgan is a special reports editor at realscreen with a background in journalism and digital marketing. She joined the publication in 2019 after serving as the assistant editor to trade publications HPAC and On-Site. With a bachelor of journalism from the University of King's College in Halifax, she also works as a freelance writer and fact-checker.