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Pact data reveals hike in streamer sales helped UK TV exports reach new high

International sales of UK programmes reached a new high in 2022/23, according to the latest exports report from trade body Pact, with more than half of sales going to streamers for the first time.

John McVay

Pact praised series highlighted David Attenborough-narrated Frozen Planet II and entertainment format Ru Paul’s Drag Race for helping TV exports reach £1.85bn (US$2.27bn) in the period, a 22% increase on 2021/22.

Of the shows sold, 53% were bought by international streaming and VoD platforms, up from 39% the year before.

Finished programmes, including dramas Litvinenko and This England, formed the majority of sales at 60%, having increased by 11% year-on-year to £1.10bn – the first time they have exceeded £1bn. Format sales, such as The Traitors, increased by 22%, while coproduction sales were up 69%.

The US continued to be the most important market for UK TV exports, contributing £525m (28%) of all sales. However, growth was flat due to tightened budgets at the major US companies and failed to return to pre-Covid numbers after a decline of 11% in 2021/22.

The North American market as a whole represented 38% of sales, growing by 14% year-on-year.

Germany moved into third place behind Australia, with growth of 26% to reach £108m. Elsewhere in Europe, sales to Spain grew by 79% to £40m, while exports to Italy increased by 21% to £38m.

Just outside of the top 10, South Africa also experienced strong growth, rising by 66% to £23m.

Scripted drama remains the key driver of international content sales for UK companies, representing 49% of revenue. This is followed by entertainment at 21% and factual at 18%.

According to Pact, 100% of respondents cited a lack of funding support from commissioners as a likely key impact on the distribution of UK content internationally in the next 12 months. Increased production costs also featured highly for 91% of respondents, while 73% of distributors said the growing market for free, ad-supported streaming TV channels will impact the market for UK programming.

John McVay, Pact’s CEO, said: “These strong sales figures highlight yet again that UK indies continue to produce quality TV programmes that the rest of the world wants to watch. However, we anticipate that this is likely to be an exceptional year and that next year’s report will reflect the current global financial uncertainty and rising production costs.”

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