Increases in both co-commissions between traditional broadcasters and SVoDs, and in sole commissions, drove investment in British TV drama to a record £2.6 billion last year, according to a new report commissioned by COBA (the Association for Commercial Broadcasters and On-Demand Services).

The report found that co-commissions surged by 17%, from 30 in 2018 to 35 in 2019. Sole commissions also increased across the sector, with PSBs, pay-TV and SVoD streamers all upping activity. The result drove total investment in high end TV shows from all parties to increase by 19%.

Co-commissions, however, were by far the single most important category of production, with BBC sole commissions coming next at 26.

The report stated that:  ‘Co-commissioning is more important for high end TV drama productions than any single broadcaster or platform.’ 

The report, by analyst Ben Keen, defines co-commissions as shows with significant third-party involvement at production stage, noting that third party investment in dramas made by Public Service Broadcasters is now greater than the direct spending by those PSB broadcasters themselves. PSB drama production totalled £664m, of which 56% came from third parties.  

Increase in spend per hour on shows also rose sharply, up nearly 60% year on year. Yet, with their production budgets boosted by third-party spending increasing, PSBs themselves actually reduced their direct spend per hour, while increasing the number of hours of drama they were able to broadcast compared to 2018.

Minister for Media and Data John Whittingdale said: “These impressive figures demonstrate the strength and variety of UK drama production. With continued government support through the high-end TV tax relief and the £500m film and TV production restart scheme, I’m confident we’ll see its continued success.

Adam Minns, Executive Director of COBA, said: ‘This is a golden age for UK drama, as this report shows. What comes through loud and clear is how the UK benefits from a mixed ecology of different players, PSB and non PSB. The PSBs have successfully leveraged their positions at the heart of the sector to capitalise on the opportunities created by other players.” 


Jon Creamer

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