By Simon Murray 18-05-2012
As television buyers and sellers meet in Los Angeles for the LA Screenings, many seasoned executives will have a good idea how much US distributors charge for top drama series, but few know the benefits the broadcasters reap by screening these shows.
The value of imported drama series to European broadcasters was US$5.99bn in 2011, according to the recent Imported Drama Series report from Essential Television Statistics, Madigan Cluff and Digital TV Research. This figure was similar to 2009 and 2010 but was well down on the US$6.614bn recorded in 2008. The report calculated the value that 119 channels in 21 European territories gained by screening foreign programmes.
Michael Cluff, co-author and director at Madigan Cluff, says: “Most countries experienced a pick-up in advertising fortunes in 2011, with some markets, such as Russia, showing very strong growth. Against this, economic constraints in Southern and Eastern Europe have reduced revenues. Advertising and other income sources for channels continue to be pressured in 2012. Furthermore, both scheduling patterns and advertising income will see a rollercoaster of a ride, with the London Olympics and the Euro 2012 soccer championship.”
Madigan Cluff established each show’s value by taking the combined annual net advertising, licence and public subsidy revenues for each channel profiled. These annual revenue figures were split for each channel by hour and month following the advertising rate card and other investment patterns established for the channel or similar channels in the same market. Networks that carry no ads or that have advertising break patterns that don’t extend across all transmission hours had value allocated by using the most comparable channel available.
CBS Studios International distributed the top three titles in 2011, with NCIS leading the pack with US$210m. The three CSI shows also appear in the top 10, with CSI: Miami delivering US$194m in value and the original CSI US$177m. NBCUniversal’s House delivered US$143m while Warner Bros’ The Mentalist and Disney’s Criminal Minds were roughly equal at US$129m, and CSI: New York was seventh with US$126m. Only one of the top 10 titles (Bavaria Media’s Sturm der Liebe at US$113m) originated from outside the US, followed by Warner Bros’ Two and a Half Men at US$97m and Fox’s Bones with US$85m.
The average hourly value of imported drama series for European channels reached US$37,336 in 2011 – similar to 2009 and 2010 but down from the high of US$46,464 in 2007. This is influenced not only by changes in the ad market but also by scheduling changes, when broadcasters moved imported drama into off-peak or to secondary nets.
The major European channels derive substantial value by screening imported drama series. However, most are becoming more selective in their import acquisitions. With the top three places in the report going to German channels, ARD1 (US$291,614) benefits most on an hourly basis from screening imported series. At the other end of the scale, 24 channels profiled gained less than US$10,000 an hour from imported drama in 2011.
Only half of the top 10 imported drama series ranked by hours broadcast also appear in the top 10 by value created: NCIS (2,817 hours licensed), CSI (2,319), CSI: Miami (2,197), Two and a Half Men (1,923) and Criminal Minds (1,819). Some older titles perform well by hourly totals, but many of them air in non-primetime, often as reruns, and therefore do not necessarily create high value. For instance, Friends took third place with 2,197 hours but only 600 of these (27%) were in primetime.
Jonathan Bailey, co-author and MD at Essential Television Statistics, says: “The number of hours screened by each major distributor is driven by a small number of highly successful programmes – 2011 saw very strong usage of CSI and NCIS in primetime widely across Europe.
“Although key shows continue to make up a significant proportion of the primetime output of major European channels, 81% of imported drama hours were transmitted outside primetime.”
In terms of volume, CBS Studios became Europe’s top distributor of imported dramas in 2011. The studio’s dramas filled 4,861 hours in primetime across 119 channels in 21 territories. Warner Bros was second place with 3,891 hours.
Food for thought for both buyers and sellers at the LA Screenings this month.