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How's 2011 for indies?

13 April 2011

Four indie bosses give their verdict on the state of business for the independent production sector so far this year. Is the market still challenging or are things beginning to pick up?

Glyn Middleton
Chief executive, True North

The market has definitely picked up - more programmes are being commissioned and we're busier than we've ever been. But there's a down side - programme budgets are being squeezed and broadcasters are demanding the same level of quality for less cash. In a hugely competitive market, we can't afford to let the quality slip, so we've had to accept that we'll sometimes make little or no profit on programmes, but will balance the books through post production, secondary sales and new sources of income. My concern is for those indies without their own facilities.

David Smith
Managing director, Matchlight

I'm hopeful. Commissions are certainly happening even if tariffs continue to drift downwards and pressure in departments that have suffered cuts, like business affairs, slow the process. The BBC's year end makes Jan to March an interesting time. It's a good time to sell even if cash flow is often delayed until beyond April. We had a good 2010/11 and 2011/12 looks like it will be at least as good. We have new commissions about to start for BBC2, BBC3 and BBC4 and we're in production on our first series commission for C5 - 6x60 and funded. The trick, as ever, is maintaining momentum throughout the year.

Jonathan Drake
Managing director, Impossible Pictures

The new year is hectic – as a result of keeping development boiling during the downturn we are emerging out the other side firing on all cylinders with every unit in production across all our companies. The inevitable repositioning of financing and business models has been accelerated through the recession, but there appears to be some confidence in the market now to actually put them in practice and decisions are getting made. A close eye still needs to be kept on costs and the profitability of any project we enter into – and this means the business functions have as much on their hands right now as the creative ones.

Charles Wace
Chief executive, Two Four Group

2011 has certainly been a lot better so far than 2010. The sentiment is a lot brighter. In the broadcast space, we have noticed a welcome return of commissioning from pretty well every broadcaster that Twofour has worked with in the past. In order to achieve a margin, projects are being financed in part through overseas sales or by the injection of cash from a corporate sponsor. In the digital space, we have also seen a considerable increase in private companies wanting to build a brand and presence online. Twofour's overseas sales have continued being really significant - with our Abu Dhabi office kicking in revenue across all sectors of our business.

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