Producers’ trade body, Pact, has published its annual census that takes the temperature of UK indie production with total sector revenues reaching a record £3,944 million in 2022.

The figures outlined in the report show the huge growth experienced in UK production in 2022 before strikes in the US and a commissioning slowdown from UK broadcasters took hold.

Presenting the report for the 2022 figures, Pact CEO John McVay, said that while 2022 was a time of huge revenue growth, “2023 is clearly a tough year. I think 2024 is going to be a bit shaky as well. Talking to members, lots of them have had to restructure and lay off staff and make changes to work patterns as they try to get through it.”

McVay said he hoped the sector could “return to a more normal trajectory and get over the COVID dip and the correction and get back to sensible 5% growth year on year. It’s a nice solid trajectory. When you get these troughs and then booms it’s difficult to manage as we’re all we’re all experiencing and, of course, exasperated by the industrial relations dispute in America.”

The report’s 2022 figures showed that while domestic TV revenues experienced slight growth, reaching their highest ever level of £2,207 million, international revenues grew sharply by 70 per cent to reach £1,618 million “likely due to the return of multiple major UK international productions The Crown and Sex Education, the UK launch of Apple TV and Disney + and the ongoing attractiveness of the UK TV market to global buyers.”

Digital commissioning – or streaming – both domestically and internationally, was the main driver of growth in 2022, according to the census. Domestically, digital commissioning grew to £155 million, more than double (129%) than in 2021, “probably due to broadcasters’ shifting commissioning strategies and prioritisation of their VOD services.”

Internationally, streamers significantly increased their spending on UK independent producers by 133 per cent, reaching a total of £696 million.

Overall commissioning revenues rose by 28.8 per cent to £3,306 million in 2022, with UK primary commissions increasing by 4.7 per cent to their highest ever level of £1,986 million.

Primary international commissions almost doubled (97%) to a new high of £1,320 million.

Conversely, there was a decline in secondary rights revenue to £407 million, down £102 million on 2021. “This may be partially attributable to the increase in streaming activity, with SVOD platforms often taking all rights.”

2022 also saw an increase in both PSB and multichannel commissioning spend with PSB commissioning spend increasing by 4.4 per cent and multichannel by 5.9 per cent.

The market share of mid-sized production companies (£5-£25 million) increased as they entered higher turnover brackets. And over half of all commissioning spend (51%) went to producers with a turnover of above £70 million, largely due to more producers in this turnover bracket and international commissioning spend going to larger producers.

Spend on factual entertainment shrunk the most of any genre (6% decrease), likely due to prevailing Covid-19 safety measures, while spend on drama continued to grow reaching 37 per cent of all UK spending in 2022. This was 2 per cent more than 2021 but not as high as the peak of 40 per cent in 2019.

The BBC was the largest spender on new programming, significantly increasing its share of commissioning spend in new programming to 41 per cent in 2022, from 27 per cent in 2021.

Commenting on the Census, Pact CEO John McVay OBE, said: “It’s a sign of confidence in the UK market that international buyers invested in British producers and great British content. However, 2022 is likely to be an exceptional year due to the recovery from the pandemic and the commissioning boom. With the cost-of-living crisis, the situation with Ukraine, rising inflation – we recognise that 2023 so far has been a much tougher year and this is likely to be reflected in 2023 Census.

“Additionally, the Census shows an increase in domestic spend illustrating how over-commissioning by UK broadcasters has contributed to a difficult 2023 with people out of work for long periods of time.”

Jon Creamer

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