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UK exports to US decline but importance of European markets growing – Pact

All3Media International’s The Tourist was among the UK’s best-selling dramas

Exports of UK shows and formats to the US were down 11% last year but rose over 40% to Germany, the Nertherlands and Italy, according to the latest report from UK trade association Pact.

The report reveals that total UK television exports surged 7% year-on-year in 2021/22 to reach an all-time high of £1.521bn.

Scripted drama remains the key driver of international sales, with All3Media International’s The Tourist and ITV Studios’ Vigil among the most popular titles.

However, while drama accounted from 46% of all revenue, the genre posted a small year-on-year decline from 53%. Formats including Love Island and MasterChef, meanwhile, helped drive an increase from 15% to 24% in the entertainment genre.

Although 11% down on last year’s trend-defying growth, the US continues to be the UK’s biggest TV export market, generating £510m and 34% of all exports. When sales to Canada – which came in fourth at £92m – are included, North America accounted for 41% of the 2021/22 export total.

Australia (£118m) remains in second place, with France (£93m) in third and the Nordic region (£92m) completing the top five. Exports to Germany, the Netherlands and Italy were also buoyant, all growing by more than 40% year-on-year.

The US was also ranked as the number-one market in terms of growth potential, followed by China, India, Canada and Mexico. This year, more than 20 markets or regions were identified by the report’s respondents as key areas of growth, with the Benelux, Brazil, the Middle East, Poland, South Korea, Turkey, South-East Asia and Central Europe also making the shortlist.

Finished programme sales continue to be the largest contributor to all TV export revenue, accounting for £996m or 64%, with international productions (14%) and formats (12%) taking the next largest shares.

Library sales – defined as content older than four years – also continues to be popular overseas, accounting for 30% of revenues. While this is slightly down from the 33% posted in 2020/21, it is still up on the previous year (22%). Sales to streaming services slowed in the same period, dropping back from 44% to 40% of total TV sales.

However, HBO Max, Amazon and Netflix acquired at least one programme from over 60% of respondents, up significantly from the previous period. Moreover, the global streamers are increasingly seen as attractive coproduction partners for new content, with 23% of respondents reporting partnerships with Netflix, Amazon, Discovery+, Peacock and HBO Max.

John McVay, CEO of Pact, said: “After a period of huge uncertainty during the pandemic, it’s great to see TV exports bouncing back not only to pre-pandemic levels but to an all-time high. This growth reinforces the UK’s reputation as world-class producers of quality TV shows enjoyed by millions of people around the world.”

There are, however, concerns around the soaring cost of production, with 92% of respondents (up from 69% year-on-year) citing this as the factor most likely to impact on the distribution of UK content over the next 12 months.

The lack of financial support from commissioners was also identified as a future challenge by 85% of respondents, up from 44% last year. Other concerns included further M&A activity (69%) and the potential privatisation of pubcaster Channel 4 (23%).

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