The independent sector is thriving.
This week’s BBC Annual Report revealed that independents produced 83 per cent of the 25 per cent of programmes that fall within the Window of Creative Competition. This represents an 11 per cent rise from last year. Overall, 42 per cent of eligible BBC programming was made by indies.
Pictures of Hartswood Films’ Sherlock are all through the Annual Report and it talks about the independent sector as “responsible for supplying some of the UK’s most valued programmes, such as Earthflight, Call the Midwife and Birdsong.”
Pact’s annual census showed the independent sector revenues growing by 2.3 per cent to £2.4bn in 2011. Growth in 2011 is shown as coming from overseas revenues, but in 2012 there is also more money in the UK.
Sky is putting its money where its mouth is, following its pledge that it is increasing its investment in British content over three years, so that by 2014 it expects to invest £600 million a year in British programmes.
Hardly a day passes without an announcement about a new Sky commission. It might have started with sport, but now it is producing more comedy than Channel 4. Stuart Murphy, the broadcaster’s director of entertainment channels, says that it’s looking to change the game across genres. At Sheffield, it announced a new investment in feature-length documentaries.
Pact’s census did, however show profitability weakening, with production companies across most parts of the industry reporting declining net margins at 6.7 per cent in 2011, down from 13 per cent in 2010.
It also showed that primary UK commissions from broadcasters were down from £1.36bn to £1.25bn, the result of recessionary broadcaster cuts, especially at the BBC and ITV, which saw their indie spend fall 13 per cent and 21 per cent respectively.
But, the recessionary blood letting seems to have stopped. And spending by multichannel broadcasters increased from £130m to £163m in 2011.
On top of what currently seems to be a good UK market for indies, there’s been a big increase in overseas revenues as indies exploit their programming rights, selling and reversioning for different markets. International buyers spent £625m on UK indie productions in 2011, up from £495m in 2010, according to Pact.
Given that the BBC weather forecasters are insisting that the sun is about to come out across the UK, there’s never been a more apt time to say ‘make hay while the sun shines’. Now is a good time to be an independent producer.

Pippa Considine

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