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COBA: UK drama spend hit record $3.5bn

Increases in both co-commissions between traditional broadcasters and SVoDs and in sole commissions drove investment in UK TV drama to a record £2.6bn (US$3.5bn) last year.

Adam Minns

A new report commissioned by the Association for Commercial Broadcasters and On-Demand Services (COBA) shows co-commissions rose from 30 in 2018 to 35 in 2019.

Sole commissions also increased across the sector, with public service broadcasters (PSBs), pay TV operators and SVoD streamers all increasing activity.

The result was total investment in high-end TV shows from all parties rose by 19%. Co-commissions, however, were by far the single most important category of production, with BBC sole commissions coming next at 26.

The report stated: “Co-commissioning is more important for high-end TV drama productions than any single broadcaster or platform.”

The report, by analyst Ben Keen, defines co-commissions as shows with significant third-party involvement at production stage, noting that third-party investment in dramas made by PSBs is now greater than the direct spending by those pubcasters themselves. PSB drama production totalled £664m, 56% of which came from third parties.

Spend per hour on shows also rose, increasing by nearly 60% year-on-year. Yet with their production budgets boosted by higher third-party spending, PSBs themselves actually reduced their direct spend per hour by £45,000, while increasing the hours of drama they were able to air compared with 2018.

Adam Minns, exec director of COBA, said: “This is a golden age for UK drama, as this report shows. What comes through loud and clear is how the UK benefits from a mixed ecology of different players, PSB and non-PSB. The PSBs have successfully leveraged their positions at the heart of the sector to capitalise on the opportunities created by other players.”

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