Unscripted

Pact report: factual programs driving higher demand for library content

The 2020-21 UK TV Exports report from the Producers Alliance for Cinema and Television (Pact) has shown that, despite the impact of the pandemic on production worldwide, the sales of ...
December 20, 2021

The 2020-21 UK TV Exports report from the Producers Alliance for Cinema and Television (Pact) has shown that, despite the impact of the pandemic on production worldwide, the sales of British TV shows have suffered only a slight reduction of 3.3% since the time of Pact’s 2019-20 report, with a total revenue of £1.426 million. While scripted drama was far and away the leading export category, factual programming dominated the year’s largest growth sector: the increased demand for older library content.

The Pact report reveals that 93% of distributors surveyed noted that there was a surge in demand for library content over the past year, with 81% also attesting that buyers had expressed renewed interest in programming that they had previously passed on. This increased demand for older content is yet another reflection of the global slowdown in new production, which is likely to continue into 2022 given the current spread of the Omicron variant.

Although non-fiction was a distant second in terms of total sales – accounting for 16% of revenue to scripted drama’s 53% – it was the clear winner in the race to acquire older material. In the Pact report, 79% of respondents noted an increased demand for factual (non-scripted) content. The next-highest genre was non-scripted entertainment at 57%, followed by a tie between TV drama and comedy at 50%, with kids programming bringing up the rear at 21%.

Overall, library sales accounted for 33% of total export revenue in 2020-21 according to Pact, up from 22% in 2019-20. The U.S. remains the largest market for UK programming, representing 40% of all sales (an increase of 8% from the previous year), followed by Australia, France, and Canada.

Sales to streaming services for UK content continued to grow, accounting for almost half (44%) of all finished program sales reported, up from 38% in 2019/20. More than half of the distributors surveyed said that they had sold a program to Amazon Prime or Netflix in the last financial year.

“To post such a small reduction in exports despite the effects of the pandemic on the UK TV industry is further evidence of how resourceful producers have been throughout the pandemic to not only keep their businesses afloat, but to continue to bring quality, entertaining content to audiences around the world,” said Pact chief executive John McVay (pictured) in a statement.

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