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November 2019

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Production 100, 2017 Back to Reports & survey Listing

Which broadcasters do producers think are best and hardest to deal with? Here indies reveal how they are treated by their commissioning clients

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 and worst 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.

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 it’s the focus of most indie opinion.

There’s been a slight improvement in how the corporation is viewed by indies. It’s voted the best broadcaster with a 25% score, up from 18% last year. But it’s also the worst, with 37% of the vote – one more than last year.

On the plus side, producers say the BBC is “much improved” and “seems to have overcome the difficulties of the past few years and are commissioning with confidence.” Adds another indie: “Since getting rid of a slew of duff commissioners they have really got their act together under Alison Kirkham and the new mode of partnership between BBC1 and BBC2 under Charlotte [Moore] and Patrick [Holland] is working well.”

The BBC is “still the only place (just…) to have grown-up conversations about projects that can talk up to the audience, rather than play to the lowest common denominator”, explains one producer. Another adds: “The BBC has a good collaborative team and smart commissioners.

Many complain, though, about the BBC’s “slow speed of decision making” and that “there too many layers of decision makers.” Others speak of an “agonisingly painful commissioning process” and “a vast amount of politics and many layers to get through for a commission.”

Some blame “multiple restructures in the commissioning teams which hasn’t made life easy.” Others cite understaffing. “New projects have stalled, existing developments have atrophied, and it has made us think twice before bringing them our best projects.” Says one producer: “Communications within commissioning teams and with indies remains an issue, though there have been some improvements.”

Channel 4

Channel 4 continues to polarise producers too. It has lost its crown from last year as the best broadcaster, while remaining the second hardest broadcaster to deal with.

On the plus side, C4 “continues to take the most risks on shows and make quick decisions. It also “has the most creative commissioning team and the clearest identity.”

Several smaller and/or regional indies have good words to say. C4 is “collaborative, quick and genuinely keen to develop out-of-London. It also “practises what it preaches in terms of taking its responsibility towards the UK indie sector seriously. It is unique in this regard. It takes risks.”

Another smaller indie says: “C4 can be slow to respond but is honest with feedback, it feels like a level playing field when pitching, its business affairs team is great and its systems are very user friendly.”

For all the positive words, there are plenty of negatives. One calls C4 “a closed shop.” Another says “there is a suspicion that quotas are set aside for C4-invested companies.”

There are complaints that “commissioners have no power and decisions have to be referred up.” Another indie expands on this point: “Too many ideas have the backing of the commissioner and head of department, yet never get commissioned.”

Others say C4 is “too dependent on a few long-running titles which it orders in bulk, reducing its ability to take enough risk by commissioning more new shows.”

ITV is voted best broadcaster by 24% of indies, an improvement on last year’s score. Yet 12% say it is the hardest broadcaster, up from 7% last year.

Many of the positives about ITV focus on its “speedy response time” and “quick decisions”. ITV is “clear and straightforward to deal with both editorially and in business affairs.” ITV is also “open to discussion, clear about what it needs, good at giving feedback, and has commissioners who let producers produce.” Several also say ITV has “reasonable budgets”.

On the negative side, several indies say it is hard to discern ITV’s true identity.  Says one indie: “It’s tricky to find that sweet spot there. Maybe there isn’t one….” Another indie adds: “ITV has no identity, no soul, no ambition. Producers need to know what a channel is about, its direction of travel, its ambition and its viewers. ITV is unable to provide any sense of what its destination is beyond buzzwords.“


Sky continues to get more feedback in the Production 100, reflecting its new status as a significant commissioner. It gets good feedback, with 20% voting it the best broadcaster and only 3% labelling it the worst. Many indies say Sky’s commissioning process is “straightforward”, “collaborative”, “accessible” and “quick”. Says one indie: “Sky has a flat(ish) structure and supports rather than meddles. It also funds a decent production budget and gets behind shows massively with marketing.”

This is confirmed by another indie: “When they back shows, they really do 100%. Even when delivering tricky news such as cancelling shows the message is fair, direct and decisive.”

On the downside, some indies are confused about what Sky is looking for. “It is very difficult to understand what its remit is,” says one.

Channel 5

The reputation of C5 has taken a slight turn for the worse in recent years, a trend confirmed this year. 10% say it is the hardest broadcaster to deal with, while just 6% say it is the best.

One indie sums up the pros (and some of the cons) about C5 very neatly: “C5 makes fast decisions based on solid reasoning and you always know where you stand. Working for it comes with constraints (ambition will always be greater than the budget; it’ll try to swipe your rights) but if you can find a way to make it work, you’ll find trusted colleagues to work with.“ Another describes “quick commissioning and fast and constructive feedback during the production process.”

Most complaints about C5 are to do with budgets and business affairs. C5 is “tricky with Terms of Trade and has disadvantageous financing structures”, while “budgets are tight and it expects too much for what it pays.”


Discovery is a key client of many indies, and is voted best broadcaster by 6% – and worst by 5%. Discovery is cited for its “enthusiasm, approachability and support in getting a project over the line”, while its “legal department works quickly and it pays on time.” On the downside, Discovery is difficult for some indies to work with because there is “too much meddling” and it is “constantly reshuffling.”

UKTV’s growing commissioning clout has also expanded its dealing with indies. Indies describe it as “supportive, collegiate and trusting and respectful of indies and exec producers.” It is also cited for its “friendliness”.

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