UKTV has released its 2023 Performance Report showing “record growth” for the network and its streaming service UKTV Play.

UKTV’s CEO, Marcus Arthur, said that despite “an extremely challenging year for the TV advertising market” and a “downward spiral” that “has been much longer and deeper than many predicted, UKTV is weathering this storm well, achieving record SOCI and streaming growth last year as we continue to transform the business into a digital first and audience-led company.”

UKTV’s SOCI (Share of Commercial Impacts) reached 8.81%, the highest ever for the seven channel network. The broadcaster also grew share by 5% to a record 4.92%, up from 4.70% last year. UKTVPlay direct-to-consumer views increased by 56% year-on-year, dwarfing the 27% growth the service enjoyed in 2022.

Arthur said: “UKTV has grown its network share by 5% and UKTV Play has increased views by 56%, fuelled by over 1000 hours of new content joining the service. Views, active users and views per active user have all been up year-on-year across every month in 2023, with titles such as Signora Volpe, Bangers & Cash: Restoring Classics, Sister Boniface Mysteries and Annika helping to drive growth. Six out of our seven linear channels have enjoyed share growth and UKTV Originals continue to go from strength to strength, with 10 out of the top 20 shows on the network being originations. We’ve also celebrated awards success with Dave winning Channel of the Year at the Broadcast Digital Awards.

“2024 will be another tough year for commercial broadcasters with the advertising recession continuing to bite, but I’m confident that UKTVwill remain on its growth trajectory and I’m looking forward to uniting UKTV’s free TV and digital portfolio under new masterbrand U. Launching in the summer, UKTV Play will transition to U and our free-to-air linear channels will become U&Dave, U&DRAMA, U&W and U&YESTERDAY, better enabling us to leverage the brands within UKTV’s real estate as we make ourselves fit for a digital future.”

UKTV Play grew direct-to-consumer views by 56% and monetisable views by 48%.  The new UKTV Play 3.0 app was rolled out across platforms and devices including Google TV, Apple iOS, Android, Amazon Fire and Freeview.The Play catalogue now has over 7000 hours of content. UKTV says drama has been a key driver of growth for the service with shows such as SignoraVolpe, Mrs Sidhu Investigates, Sister Boniface Mysteries, Berlin Station, Atlantic Crossing, Annika, The Brokenwood Mysteries, Madam Secretary and Smother all featuring in the top 20 highest rating episodes on the service.

UKTV also launched four UKTV Play branded FAST channels in 2023 – UKTV Play Heroes, UKTV Play Laughs, UKTV Play Full Throttleand UKTV Play Uncovered – on Samsung TV, Amazon Freevee and Pluto TV, and aims to launch FAST channels directly on UKTV Play in the coming year.

Drama, W, Yesterday, Alibi, Gold and Eden all grew share in 2023. Richard Watsham, UKTV’s Chief Creative Officer and Global Director of Acquisitions BBC Studios/UKTV said, “The prolonged advertising downturn has increased pressure on budgets and our response has been to remain agile across the content supply, mixing impactful originations and high value acquired boxsets alongside much-loved BBC classics.”

Annika returned to Alibi for a second series and became the highest rating programme on the channel and across the UKTV network last year, watched by 1.29m. It helped propel Alibi to 16% share growth in 2023, aided by a slate of content including UK premiere CSI: Vegas and UKTV Original The Diplomat.

Yesterday benefitted from increased content investment with UKTV Originals accounting for nine out of 10 of the channel’s top shows (Secrets of the London Underground, Bangers & Cash, Bangers & Cash: Restoring Classics, Hornby: A Model World, Classic Car Garage, The Architecture the Railways Built, Retro Electro Workshop, Abandoned Engineering, Tony Robinson’s Marvellous Machines), resulting in 8% share growth for the channel.

On Dave, Meet the Richardsons was the highest rating show on the channel in 2023, with World’s Most Dangerous Roads, QI XL, David Mitchell’s Outsiders and Alan Davies: As Yet Untitled rounding out the top five. Dave also enjoyed BAFTA recognition with nominations for Big Zuu’s Big Eats and Meet the Richardsons.

Drama averaged a 1.63% share (up 3% year-on-year) and Mrs Sidhu Investigates and Sister Boniface Mysteries were both watched by over 1.2m viewers.

Gold (+13%), W (+16%) and Eden (+31%) also achieved share growth last year. Blackadder: The Lost Pilot was Gold’s most successful show watched by 659k viewers, closely followed by Blood Actually: A Murder They Hope Mystery Alison & Larry: Billericay to Barry, Hancock’s Half Hour in Colour and Only Fools and Horses. W achieved its best ever share of 0.55% with UKTV Original Gemma and Gorka: Life Behind the Lens featuring in the top five shows on the channel.

Watsham added, “Getting further upstream on creative partnerships is more important than ever and I’m pleased to see the likes of Sister Boniface Mysteries, Mrs Sidhu Investigates and Signora Volpe achieving big numbers for UKTV Play and Drama. Annika’s spectacular performance on pay channel Alibi, the success of Yesterday’s originations and Dave’s Channel of the Year win have all helped fuel UKTV’s growth too. Seeing the brilliant talent elevated through Rosie Jones’s Disability Comedy Extravaganza break through onto other mainstream shows has been a particular highlight.

“As we enter 2024, I’m looking forward to working alongside our exceptional indie partners on exciting new content, including our first male-skewing drama for UKTV Play and Dave and the comedy/ reality hybrid Battle in the Box, hosted by a very much in-form Jimmy Carr.”

Jon Creamer

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