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November 2019

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  • The Facilities 50
    Jon Creamer launches Televisual's 32nd exclusive annual Facilities 50 survey featuring the top post production houses in the UK and 48 pages of analysis of the sector
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    10 page special report on production at the high end. We take a look at what’s new in colour management, pre visualisation, aerial filming, full frame shooting, the role of the DIT, working with Dolby Atmos, choosing the right codec, booking studios and
  • Drama: Genre Report
    As the streaming revolution gathers pace, with Apple TV+ and Disney+ now entering the SVOD fray, Tim Dams reports on the drama strategies of traditional broadcasters in an increasingly competitive market
  • Live Sport: Technology
    Live sports and events coverage, always on the cutting edge of innovation, is being transformed by new technology from remote production to 5G and immersive sound. Michael Burns reports
  • The Art of the Grade
    The grade provides a consistent ‘look’ to a drama, but a great grade can enhance mood, focus and narrative flow. Jon Creamer asks the experts behind Paddington, Ad Astra, Bohemian Rhapsody, Fleabag and more how it’s done
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Production 100 2018 Back to Reports & survey Listing

Indies are very forthcoming when asked for their opinions about dealings with 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 to the Production 100.

The 2018 Production 100 makes better reading for the BBC than in recent years.

For the second year, the BBC is voted as best broadcaster to deal with – by a much bigger margin. But it’s not voted the hardest broadcaster to deal with this time (that pleasure goes to C4, of which more below).

All this points to a marginal improvement at the BBC in terms of its dealing with indies.  On the plus side, indies say the BBC is “accessible” and has a “straightforward commissioning process.” BBC commissioners give “clear, constructive notes”, “know what they are talking about” and give “swift feedback and excellent support.”  “They commission you to make a show and they let you make it. They exec with a light touch and they trust their suppliers.”

Moreover, the commissioners are “supportive of difficult programme making choices” and are “starting to be more flexible and entrepreneurial”.

As always, it is BBC bureaucracy that raises indie ire. Many producers use the world “slow” to describe their dealings with the BBC. “There’s a lot of red tape and paperwork”, while commissioners “can be frustratingly slow to make decisions”. Other adjectives used to describe the BBC include “cautious”, ”laborious”, “inward-looking”, “inflexible” and “conservative”.

One indie talks of “too many commissioners with too little power”, while another complains that “it still feels like a club that only commissions its friends.”

BBC business affairs also come in for stick. One indie says, “business affairs have been unprofessional and bullying”, another says they are “hopelessly slow”. Others pick out the BBC’s “risk averse editorial policy position which makes co-funding a challenge.”

Channel 4
Indie satisfaction rates with Channel 4 have been tracking downwards in recent years.

It’s voted the hardest broadcaster to deal with in 2018. C4 comes second in the best broadcaster category.

The departure of CEO David Abraham and chief creative officer Jay Hunt has created “too much upheaval of late”.

That said, most of the indies round on C4 for the way they are treated. Two common themes clearly emerge: C4 is both “arrogant” and “micro-managing” in its dealings with indies.

C4 is “demanding and involved in every detail”, “aloof” and is “still arrogant.”

Referring to C4’s plan to move many staff out of London, indies say the “focus needs to be on commissioning and not on geography.” Others say that C4 “doesn’t have the budgets to back its ambitions.”
On the plus side, C4 is lauded because it “still backs indies”. Says one producer: “C4 is still the one true champion of the independent sector, despite all the issues of the interregnum and resulting chaos.” C4 also “listens and works with you on budgets.”

ITV is voted best broadcaster by 17% of indies, a fall from 24% last year. 14% say it is the hardest broadcaster to deal with.

Praise for ITV centres on its “straightforward” commissioning structure and speedy response time. Commissioners are “good at communicating and quick to get back to you,” says one. “Decisive, realistic tariffs but above all they support producers,” adds another.

ITV has “commissioners who know what they are talking about”, “simple business affairs” and is “clear, decisive and collaborative. It seems to have the strongest grasp of its own brand.”

That said, ITV can be “hard to get a commission from if you are not one of their few favoured producers” and is known for “aggressive deal making and about turns”.

Others say ITV “massively favours” its in-house production division, ITV Studios.

Feedback about Sky continues to grow, reflecting its status as a significant commissioner. 14% say it is the best broadcaster to deal with, while 4% think it is the hardest.

Sky has a “very flat structure” and is “quick” and “easy to approach.” Says one indie: “Sky has good budgets, is incredibly supportive and has astute editorial”. The broadcaster is “clear about what it wants” and has “great people to work with.” “The creative vision is totally respected and it has clear processes and pays on time.”

On the flip side, some indies complain of Sky’s “indecision”. One notes: “Sky can be frustrating – meetings are cancelled at the last minute and priorities change.”

Channel 5
An improvement for C5 this year. 13% say it is the best broadcaster to deal with (up from 6% last year), while 8% rate it the hardest.

Praise for C5 centres on its editorial team, specifically director of TV Ben Frow. C5 is led by the “best TV brain in Britain.” This quote just about sums up indie opinions: “He’s quirky, at times crackers – but fuck does he know what he (and mostly) what the audience wants.  He’s decisive, supportive (if you get him and get the channel and deliver a hit – he’s the most loyal of anyone at any other network), hands off and completely committed to building creative communities outside London.”

Criticism for C5 centres on budgets and business affairs. C5 has “low budgets, non-moving business affairs and more funding from third parties taking rights as part of the deal.” Says one indie: “Brutal commercial terms and an inflexible business affairs strategy makes it the last place you want to take a great idea.”

Netflix is a new entrant this year, winning votes in the best broadcaster category.

One indie describes Netflix as “the Carlsberg of commissioning” (in a positive way). “Fantastic support across production and creative, with a real understanding of content providers needs.” The OTT platform is “straight to the point”, has “very little politics” and offers “simple clear conversations while rarely, if ever weakening the final programmes.”

Rival service Amazon, meanwhile, does attract some negative commentary for “lack of experienced commissioners” and “senior staff changes.”

UKTV’s growing commissioning spend means it garners more feedback this year, with 6% voting it the best broadcaster to deal with.

UKTV is “flat, decisive and friendly.” One says UKTV “makes quick commissioning decisions and is very responsive during commercial affairs and legal negotiations.” Producers pick out individual UKTV channels for praise. W “gets back quickly and its feedback is solid” while Dave is “incredibly supportive during the production process.”

There’s less feedback about Discovery this year, which picks up 3% of the best broadcaster vote.

Discovery is “clear about what it wants creatively, super fast on contracting and prompt to pay.” Others rate Discovery for being “straightforward and business like”. Says one indie: “Discovery has excellent systems for cash flow and payments during production. It’s very supportive of the producer both creatively and on the production management and delivery of series.”

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