Almost 50% of the UK’s independent TV production sector is now in the hands of foreign investors, according to figures from Televisual’s 2012 Production 100 survey of the indie TV business.

The top 100 indies in the UK turned over £2.1bn in 2011/2012. Foreign investors are in charge of UK production companies with a combined turnover of £1bn.

The figures are published on the day that Sony Pictures Television International confirmed its ambition to build its presence in the UK, acquiring leading drama indie Left Bank Pictures for £40m. It also owns Silver River, Gogglebox and Victory. See story here.

Seven of the top ten superindies in the Production 100 are foreign-owned:  Shine Group  was acquired by News Corp last year; Endemol UK is part of the eponymous Dutch group; Zodiak UK belongs to Italian conglomerate De Agostini Group; IMG Sport is the UK production arm of US sports giant IMG; FremantleMedia UK belongs to European TV giant RTL Group; Shed Media is majority owned by US studio Warner Bros; and NBC Universal has a significant presence here through its ownership of Carnival Films and Monkey.

German production group Red Arrow Entertainment is also investing in the UK, owning The Mob, Nerd TV, CPL and Endor. And broadcaster Discovery earlier this year acquired factual producer Betty.

A number of factors are driving the international takeover of the UK production sector: the UK’s favourable rights environment, the appeal of English-language content internationally, and the depth of talent in the UK market.

The incursion of US studios into the UK, in particular, has raised fears amongst some local execs of the “Coca-Cola-isation” of the UK production sector, with the big groups only interested in producing formats designed explicitly for international markets rather than shows tailored for UK viewers.

On the plus side, UK production companies owned by well resourced international players have greater access to capital to help them fund shows. NBC Universal, for example, has provided vital funding to raise the budget of ITV’s global hit Downton Abbey, made by NBC-owned Carnival Films.

The full Production 100 survey is published in the September issue of Televisual.

Tim Dams

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