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European broadcasters ‘return fire’ on big-spending SVoDs, says Ampere

Europe’s public and commercial broadcasters have accelerated their commissioning output as they emerge from the pandemic and “return fire” against deep-pocketed SVoD services gaining ground across the continent, says Ampere Analysis.

According to a report from the UK-based research firm, the second quarter of 2021 saw the 10 biggest free-to-air groups in Western Europe’s largest TV markets (UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy) commission almost 600 new first-run TV shows for their channels and VoD platforms. That’s an increase of 23% over pandemic-disrupted Q2 2020 and 64% over the same period in 2019.

Nearly double the number of new scripted projects were commissioned in Q2 2021 compared with Q2 2020, and nearly a quarter more than in the same period in 2019. Unscripted shows (largely docs, reality and light entertainment shows) saw the biggest increase, accounting for 80% of all commissions in the first half of 2021.

There are a confluence of factors contributing to the uptick, said Ampere, including a realisation that the traditional programming supply chains are drying up, due to the fact US studios are increasingly holding content back for their proprietary streaming services rather than licensing it to third parties.

“This ramp up of activity is as much out of necessity for some groups as it is a strategic choice. Many of Europe’s commercial broadcasters have historically relied on licensed content to fill linear channel schedules, with US imports a key source of high-quality content,” said Richard Broughton, research director at Ampere Analysis.

Richard Broughton

“But as US media giants increasingly turn their attention to their own platforms, buyers have needed to find alternative options to bolster their slates for both linear and VoD to compensate for an increasingly siloed market.”

As European broadcasters accelerate their commissioning output, there’s evidence to suggest that a growing proportion of that content is being commissioned exclusively for their digital platforms, noted Ampere.

In Q2 2021, commissions for VoD-premiering titles represented 16% of all new commissions from major groups in the largest Western European markets, compared with 11% in the same period in 2019.

In particular, commercial groups ITV and RTL have grown significantly in terms of new commissions over the past two years, according to Ampere.

ITV commissioned more than 60 new shows in the first half of 2021, compared with 31 in the same period in 2019. Meanwhile, RTL doubled its volume of new commissions, with over 90 projects greenlit in the first half of 2021, versus 42 in the same period in 2019.

While large European broadcasting groups have increased their focus on VoD-launched projects, they still lag significantly behind their US-based counterparts, with Ampere data indicating that titles made for VoD platforms now represent between 35-40% of new projects greenlit by US broadcast and network groups.

“Progress to accelerate the number of on-demand debuts is slow, with broadcasters having to manage their VoD ambitions alongside the competing demands of meeting the needs of broadcast audiences, and advertisers, and managing squeezed finances. But the major European broadcasters should not underestimate the important role that VoD-specific commissions play in driving adoption of their own streaming products,” added Broughton.

This latest Ampere Analysis report comes three months after the research firm released a report, based on 2020 date, indicating that Netflix has become the largest single commissioner of new European scripted content.

Among the top five commissioners of European scripted TV shows in 2019, Netflix was placed fourth with 43 new commissions across Western and Central Europe, behind the UK’s BBC with 71, France TV with 59, Germany’s ZDF with 50 and ARD with 41. However, in 2020 Netflix soared to the top of the list with 72 new commissions, in front of ZDF with 55, the BBC with 54, France TV with 38 and ARD with 33.

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