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December 2017

In the magazine
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  • The Televisual Commercials 30
    Jon Creamer introduces Televisual's exclusive annual report, the Commercials 30, and finds that while budgets are down and production companies are under threat from agency in-house units, commercials producers are finding new horizons beyond ads too.
  • Commercials 30: Best in Show
    Commercials producers also get to vote for their favourite directors, stand out ads and top rated agencies along with their favourite post houses, editors and vfx ops. We reveal the results
  • Commercials 30: The Top 30
    Televisual reveals the Commercials 30 itself, the 30 top rated commercials production companies in the UK
  • Music in Motion
    So what’s next for the music behind the commercials? Will it be another year in the ascendant for London Grime perhaps? Portugese house? Afro beats or the Angolan kuduro sound?
  • Televisual Factual Festival report
    Last month saw Televisual's annual Factual Festival return to Bafta. How to stand out in a world of ever increasing viewer choice was the big theme this time. Tim Dams reports
  • Alison Kirkham in interview
    At the Televisual Factual Festival, the BBC's controller of factual Alison Kirkham outlined the shows the corporation is looking for in the year ahead
From the magazine
Available to read online
  • 2017: the year in review
    Two very different stories – the rise of SVOD players and the Harvey Weinstein abuse allegations – defined TV’s year. Tim Dams reports
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Production 100, 2015 Back to Reports & survey Listing

The Production 100 isn’t just a portrait of the independent production sector, but also an opportunity for companies to reveal all about their dealings with their broadcaster clients. We ask indies, on a strictly off the record basis, to tell us which are the best and hardest broadcasters to deal with.

The reputations poll has made tough reading for the BBC in recent years, with its detractors outweighing supporters.

It’s the same this year, albeit slightly worse for the corporation. Once again, the BBC is voted the hardest broadcaster to deal with. 45% of indies voted the BBC as the hardest broadcaster for indies to deal with, up from 42% last year.

On the plus side, 20% said the BBC was the best broadcast to deal with, putting the corporation in third place behind C4 and ITV. Those indies who do back the BBC make a note to pick out ‘supportive’ commissioning teams. For example, one entertainment indie says: “The comedy department gets behind ideas, makes quick decisions, takes risks and supports you.” Many also say that the BBC is more prepared than other broadcasters to take chances on new ideas. “They are willing to take a risk on a project.”

But the negative feedback is far more concerted and broad-based. 
As ever, the BBC’s legendary red tape and bureaucracy is a target. Many put the blame squarely with senior management, taking aim at the BBC’s confusing structure and excessive layers. It means that decisions take longer than they need to, with plenty of producers saying the BBC is slow to respond and that execs are fearful of making decisions.

Many indies claim there is a climate of fear in some departments, adding that there is lots of second-guessing channel controllers. “It seems like it’s often indecision at channel level that causes problems rather than commissioners,” says one indie.

Budget cuts are also causing problems, particularly in development. “Months of often unpaid development is increasingly the norm; the creative bar gets every higher, yet there is less and less money,” notes one indie. Another speaks of the BBC’s “demanding development detail required with no commitment to fund or commission.’

Several take aim at BBC2. One entertainment indie refers to a ‘lack of dialogue’ as well as a ‘lack of understanding and appreciation of entertainment.’ A factual producer, meanwhile, hits out at the channel for being ‘slow to respond and prescriptive – anything but transparent.’

Channel 4
C4 also divides opinions.  It’s voted the best broadcaster to deal with by the majority of indies, a testament to C4’s stated plan to engage a greater number of production companies. But it’s also voted the second hardest broadcaster to deal with, picking up a 33% vote.

C4 supporters focus on ‘cross departmental engagement’ in programme making from commissioning, finance, legal and press. ‘They have realistic budgets and passionate commissioning editors and robust and supportive legal and compliance departments.”

Several smaller indies praise C4 for supporting producers in the nations and widening the production supply base. ‘Jay Hunt is making C4 more accessible to all independent producers,” notes one. Meanwhile, a docum producer picks out the “phenomenal commissioning and legal support for the kind of challenging factual output we specialise in.”

The negative feedback around C4 centres on issues of micromanagement and a lack of power for commissioners. “None of the commissioners are able to make a decision on their own,” says one indie. “The rigidly hierarchical structure makes the process of working proposals upwards through the commissioning ranks to the decision maker an opaque and joyless drag.”

Another says: “C4 suffers from decision making road-bocks with Jay Hunt being the last word in almost all situations, despite a sensible hierarchy under her.” Others talk of a culture of micromanagement and interfering in the editing process, which often makes programmes worse.

ITV has a far stronger reputation among the indie community although it interacts with a much smaller group of suppliers so the feedback is not so broad based.

24% of producers vote them the best broadcaster to deal with, putting them in second place. 8% of indies say they are the hardest broadcaster to deal with.

Clear, fast decision-making is the factor that impresses most producers about ITV. Many indies say ITV is quick to respond to pitches and gives good, straightforward feedback on ideas. The commissioning process is regarded as relatively streamlined. “ITV makes decisions quickly, fund shows properly and are good to work with creatively,” says one indie.

More than one indie refers to ITV’s positive approach in creative and contractual matters. “The turn around on financial and contractual negotiations is very quick and staff are courteous. Creative judgement is clear, decisive and concise. Generally they are just very pleasant, reasonable and sensible to do business with.”

The negative feedback on ITV is varied. There is talk of a ‘closed circle of suppliers’. One notes that there is less opportunity in factual. Drama producers complain there is no cash flow of productions, while another says ITV’s ‘rhetoric is not aligned with commissions.’

Feedback about Sky is pretty balanced. The broadcaster has become a major commissioner and garners much more feedback than it used to. 10% of indies say Sky is the best broadcaster to deal with, 8% the worst.

Indies rate Sky for being easy and straightforward to deal with. “Sky is quick, clever, commercial and hands off,” says one producer. Another indie likes that the broadcaster is clear about what makes a Sky show. Others praise its quick responses, and say Sky is making an effort to encourage and be open to pitches. “Sky seems quicker to respond and getting meetings with commissioners is easier now.”

On the negative side, there are a number of complaints that Sky is slow to make decisions. “They are hard to get a response from. They sit on projects for up to nine months and require constant chasing,” says one. Others complain that the editorial remit for Sky channels changes regularly, so they are in a ‘constant state of flux’.

Channel 5
The stock of Channel 5 seems to be rising among indies, with 21% voting it the most improved broadcaster.

There’s a real sense that C5 has turned the corner under Viacom’s new management.  One calls C5 ‘a lot more approachable and engaged with independent producers.’ C5 is variously described as ‘straight up’, ‘direct’ and ‘simple to deal with’. Budgets might not be the best, but they make swift decisions, offer clear briefs and have an appetite for volume.

C5 falls short in its business dealings with indies, though. Business affairs ‘bully suppliers and don’t abide by the Terms of Trade,’ notes one indie, while another says that the Terms of Trade has become negotiable at C5.

The US broadcaster is now an important client for many indies, and generates plenty of comment in the reputations poll. Many say that, despite perceptions to the contrary, that Discovery is prepared to take risks with ideas. “They are genuinely keen to reach out to the indie sector and have a strong desire for the best, most creative ideas.” Despite unfavourable terms of trade, Discovery is also ‘very fair in business affairs,” says another.

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