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October 2017
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Corporate 50 2015 Back to Reports & survey Listing

A cautiously positive mood abounds in corporate. Consoldation is coming and, encouragingly, it looks like content is truly becoming king. Jon Creamer reports

In last year’s Corporate 50 survey, we reported a mood of cautious optimism among the corporate production community.
After a good few years in the doldrums, the effects of recession had begun to recede. This year, that optimism continues, with caveats of course.

“It has improved: better budgets, more work, more confidence, fewer postponements and cancellations,” is Aspect’s summation of the year. And the stats generally bear that out. The median average turnover from the survey’s respondents comes in at £2.2m this year (up from £1.6m last year). 70% of respondents said their turnover had risen in the past year.

There is optimism on budgets also. After a few years of seeing them plummet, they seem to have levelled out or even risen. 43% of respondents said they’d gone up and 43% said they’d stayed the same. Though many did add the major qualification that while the money was there, clients were expecting a lot more bang for their buck these days.

What many report is that as corporate clients become increasingly keen on social media to communicate, the demand for video has also increased. “We found that consumer clients were the first to adopt social media and see the value it can add,” says The Edge. “We’re now finding that more traditional corporate clients are interested and we’ve seen considerable growth in the creation of films dedicated to social media with online video viewing rising fast.” A-Vision concurs that “companies will rely more and more on video to tell their brand story — they need to be where the people are. Video content is more likely to be watched and shared than other kinds of content, and videos shared socially are more likely to be watched to completion.”

But even though there may be more video being made now, a divide is opening between the low end and the high end with the low end becoming increasingly unprofitable. “On smaller, day-to-day projects, budgets have decreased in the past year, “ says Big Button. There’s a sense that the old bread and butter work will disappear as in-house teams using cheap kit fulfil the basics. “Clients with in-house production teams are nothing new, but they’re definitely becoming more skilled and prolific,” says Belong. “Intranet work will become less abundant as in-house comms teams get to grips with cheap technology and produce their own basic internal comms videos.”

As prices for this type of work drop, there may still be opportunities for very small, nimble players with zero overheads, but medium sized houses are increasingly looking to offer more than just film production to their clients in order to turn a profit. There’s a sense that being only suppliers of production services will be a harder act to pull off.

“Small niche players seem to thrive and some of the bigger firms too. However the middle ground seems to have continued to struggle,” says Merchant Cantos.  “We also see that clients want more than just video in many cases. We are often asked for digital, brand and design services alongside video as part of integrated campaigns. Clients often want a one agency solution.”

And that’s what an increasing number of corporate production companies are transforming themselves into. With the democratisation of production, producers understand that it’s a whole campaign approach they need to sell themselves on. “We need to change the thinking from being a supplier that sells a commodity to being a partner that understands content in a crowded space,” says Quite Frankly.

Because that’s what clients want says Instinctif: “We believe clients in the future will want a more holistic approach to content and film creation – they will want companies that are experts in comms strategy in addition to their film production expertise.” Media Zoo concurs: “The market will become a lot more competitive and clients will not only be looking for production agencies, but integrated agencies that can develop multiple collaterals for their needs.”

So being able to sell the whole range of specialisms that go into making a successful campaign is where many are heading. Some, like Jacaranda and Take 3, have recently become the film arm of a larger communications outfit. Grosvenor Films became part of DRP over a year ago now. Others will look to partner with other suppliers on a more ad hoc basis. Consolidation is certainly coming to the sector.  “We acquired Republic Productions based in Edinburgh in August 2014,” says Speakeasy. “This continues on with our acquisition strategy – we purchased Orchard Communications in 2009 and have plans to continue with this strategy in 2015 and 2016.”

Providing a range of disciplines is one way for corporate outfits to distinguish themselves from the ‘one man and his camera phone’ model. The other is sheer filmmaking quality. Whereas anyone can point and shoot now, not everyone can create entertaining content that has the flair to keep its audience watching. And that is increasingly what clients need.

Most respondents to the survey say that clients have increasingly been asking for animation and motion graphics in a bid to help content stand out. There’s a big increase in the use of drones too for hero shots and many are reporting that DSLRs are being dumped in favour of cameras like the C300. 4K acquisition is also increasing.

Some of this comes as a consequence of techniques and kit becoming cheaper, but with more clients using social media platforms to publish their content, there’s an understanding that it has to compete for attention with the best work out there if it is to be shared as intended. It’s good news for the sector as “content is becoming king,” says Pretzel. “Slowly the creativity that agencies give to their clients on their content work is seeping into direct corporate work which is fantastic. This year has allowed us to be the most creatively free which is hugely exciting!” Wilder similarly says the year has been characterised by “more imaginative, entertaining films. ” Sandstorm says that “’Go epic’ summarises the last 12 months. It is the first year in the last five where clients have all been prepared to pay more and commit more of their resources to see their films compete at the highest possible level.” Long may that continue.

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