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Production 100, 2013 Back to Reports & survey Listing


Each year the Production 100 asks producers what they think about their broadcaster clients. On a strictly off the record basis, we ask indies to name the best, worst and most improved broadcasters they deal with – and to explain their thinking. The quotes below are all genuine responses from indies to the Production 100 – although we’ve taken out the names of the respondents to preserve their anonymity.

THE BBC
As ever, the BBC gets a varied report from indie producers, emerging simultaneously as the best and hardest broadcaster to deal with. Its position as the biggest commissioner in the UK means that, as always, it’s the focus of most indie opinion, be that positive or negative.

The Positive:
“Helpful, straightforward, don’t interfere in the minutiae”
“They are approachable and respectful”
“They understand and nurture ideas and writers. Open to a variety of genres and different storytelling”
“Although their budgets can be tight, they tend to be efficient and supportive on all sides once the trust and relationship is there.”
“Collaborative, quick answers, bright and engaging commissioning team”
“Trustworthy, flexible, good to negotiate with”

The Negative:
“Too much red tape, too much toning down for ‘Aunty Beeb’”
“Deals can be confusing if not worse”   
“The BBC remains a little holier-than-though”
“Metropolitan biased, bureaucratic, arrogant. Read Tom Archer’s speech”
“Slow decision making, too much development and tariffs too low”
“Systemic indecision, delays, lack of empathy/understanding”
“Very poor communicators, slow to respond, indecisive and opaque commissioning pathway, often dismissive and careless of the time and efforts of producers”
“Inflexible, bureaucratic, programme content led by editorial policy department and legal compliance, commissioning driven by a pricing structure of “how low 
can you go”

ITV
ITV has climbed the popularity rankings this year, voted the third most popular broadcaster and third most improved – up from fourth last year. Its lean commissioning system is liked by many, although its seen as a bit of a closed shop by many producers and there is a wariness that ITV will now push more business through its inhouse production arm, ITV Studios, and its newly acquired indies including The Garden, So Television and Big Talk. The fact that ITV doesn’t cash flow production also irks many.

The Positive:
“Quick, commercial, nimble”
“ITV have small commissioning teams so it’s easier to get an answer, either yes or no”
“I like dealing with ITV. Pretty straight-forward. Not being too clever”
“Simplest commissioning system and speed of response”
“Less red tape, less interference”
“The commissioning process is relatively streamlined and ITV work with Indies to manage production budgets.  They are good on marketing support”

The Negative:
“ITV’s lack of cash flowing is a bit of pain as it adds cost to the production which doesn’t go on the screen”
“ITV’s business affairs department is becoming increasingly difficult to deal with”   
“They don’t cashflow productions”
“ITV don’t have any special focus on indies from the nations and regions, so for us, they are harder to get through to”
“Slow to make decisions”
“ITV feels a bit directionless at the moment, with lots of commissioner changes”

Channel 4
Last year, Channel 4 was voted the best broadcaster to deal with – and the most improved. It’s slipped a little this year, no doubt a result of the well-publicised debates about the broadcaster being over centralised and micro-managing projects. Nevertheless, it scores well for reaching out to and commissioning from a wider range of indies than in previous years – the result of a deliberate attempt to expand its supply base.

The Positive:
“When they really get behind a project they give you fantastic support across all platforms and an unparalleled marketing and PR campaign”
“Responsive, decisive risk takers and partners”
“Talented commissioners who understand programme making”
“They are very collaborative and hands-on, as well as very flexible with budgets. They also listen to the producer”
“Relatively good budgets and good briefs; pay for development too. Good roster and up to speed with new wave digital audiences”
“Their commissioning process, contracts, payments are most efficient”

The Negative:
“In the grip of hyper centralised commissioning system that makes mockery of the job title of commissioner and lives on a combination of fear, loathing and second guessing that has strangled creativity”
“Arrogant, micro managing with often very poor creative judgement”   
“They seem to have lost their way about the creative direction, and allowing commissioners to have a meaningful input”
“Impossible to deal with. No idea where you stand”
“Unable to make quick decisions and are liable to change them at the last minute”
“Un-empowered commissioners who are constantly changing their minds coupled with a lack of overall direction makes C4 a difficult place to take the best ideas”
“Lack of confidence in commissioning, no strong sense that they will champion your ideas, lots of changes of mind”
“Uncertain, insecure, constant commissioning editor turnover”
“Things just go round in circles”

Channel 5
Channel 5 has a number of fans in the indie sector, but also its fair share of detractors. Admirers rate it for quick, efficient decision-making. Detractors pick up on tough deal terms, in particular the fact that so much programming is financed by ad funding specialist Group M.

The Positive:

“Fast decisions, creative and commercial partnership”
“New management efficient and clear”
“Decisions are made relatively quickly and they need content, although budgets are being squeezed”

The Negative:
“Now the hardest as deal terms are getting tougher and they don’t cash flow” 
“Too many hoops to jump through and we’ve made a decision not to work with GroupM”  
“The C5 deal with Group M is terrible news for indies and bad news for the industry.” 
“Because their constantly changing terms of business and lack of respect for Indies” 

Sky

Sky’s decision to boost its UK production spend means that it’s on the radar of many more indies than in recent years,  winning positive notices as well as some negative comments. On the plus side, it’s regarded as streamlined and straightforward. Others, however, have less kind things to say.

The Positive:
“Quick and sympathetic to smaller indies’ cash flow”
“Very simple reporting lines”
“They support arts programming”
“Decisions are made relatively quickly and they need content, although budgets are being squeezed”
“Not too much tinkering with programmes”

The Negative:
“Sky’s productions management sometimes verges on penny-pinching just for the sake of it ”
“Too involved ”
“Slow to make decisions”


Discovery
Discovery has become a major source of commissions for UK indies, and accordingly rises up the charts – voted fifth best broadcaster to deal with, its highest ever placing.

The Positive:
“Very responsive and decisive”
“Easy to deal with, good budgets for the right projects, great commissioning team and helpful and non-combative business affairs and programme finance department” 
“Realistic about cost of production and how much they need to pay to achieve their vision, practical and run by people who understand how finance and editorial go hand in hand”

The Negative:
“Far too many cooks”
“Getting editorial agreement and approval is potentially a protracted process.”


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