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December 2017

In the magazine
Only available in print
  • 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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Facilities 50 2016 Back to Reports & survey Listing

Televisual launched its first ever Facilities 50 survey back in September 1988. Amazingly, many of the names topping the list 28 years ago are exactly the same today.

MPC, the company heading the list back then, is second placed in 2016. But the size and scale of the business was incomparable to today. MPC now employs 2,798 members of staff and turns over £107m, a far cry from the 1988 model with its winning kit list (the sole determining factor for the ranking of our original list) stretching to five edit suites, two Harrys, two Paintboxes, a da Vinci colour corrector and two digital telecines.

Familiar faces
The debut Facilities 50 was welcomed by the industry, but got plenty of stick for being solely reliant on kit. So, the following year, it was rebalanced to include four new criteria including turnover and reputation with producers. Well-known post houses in both the inaugural list and this year’s Facilities 50 include: 1988’s number three Rushes; Molinare, which was number four in 1988; and commercials specialist Framestore, which was number 20 and merged with feature film post house CFC in 2001 and nowadays takes third place on a consistent basis.

The year’s number one post house, The Mill, is a relative newcomer by comparison – it launched in 1990 and made its first appearance in the Facilities 50 a year later in 6th place.

Fourth placed The Farm, meanwhile, was founded in 1998 – 10 years too late for the first Facilities 50.

All change
Looking back over the Facilities 50, the biggest changes since it began have been in technology. Avid introduced the Avid/1, the first in the line of their Media Composer systems, in 1989 – and non-linear editing took off rapidly afterwards. Almost 50% of facilities had gone into the non-linear offline market by 1992 – and it was ubiquitous by 1996.

Cost of technology has also fallen dramatically, meaning that barriers to entry have fallen. Back in 1990, for example, the average planned investment for new kit by a post house was £600k. It’s not far off that today, despite 28 years of inflation.

There are also far more clients to work for. TV moved from the analogue world of four channels to the multichannel, digital era, while the internet has hugely driven up demand for online video content.

It means there is far more work available. This has allowed more companies and people to join the market place – with the competition and improved technology helping to push creative barriers, particularly in areas such as vfx and grading.

But it has also driven down rates as channels, platforms and advertisers want cheaper and cheaper programming. There’s certainly lots more content being made – but it often has to be produced very cheaply. It’s a trend that was exacerbated during the 2000s with the rise of the superindies; consolidation reduced the number of TV production companies, and allowed the bigger groups to get tough on pricing.

Back in the 1980s, being a big post house meant you had a licence to print money – with commercials clients charged rates of £500 an hour. Those days are gone unsurprisingly.

The big post houses still dominate the market though. They are very different kinds of companies though. The Mill and MPC, for example, now have a global reach, with offices in cites such as Los Angeles, New York and Bangalore. But this kind of global spread needs deep pockets; both are owned by French multi-national Technicolor.

The emergence of global players such as Netflix and Amazon, as well as increased investment in British television by US studios, also means that many more international projects are coursing through the UK post sector.

Molinare, for example, provided picture post for Netflix’s The Crown, which is out next month. Back in 1988, even in its wildest dreams, it’s doubtful the post house could have imagined it would work on a £100m series funded by a US based online streaming giant.

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