Friday, 19 March 2010
The US has some 125m TV households as against about 25m in the UK. In my last post I looked at HBO. Where could we find a Pay-TV market large enough to create a subscription base for, say, quality drama and comedy? What about the European Union of which we are a part? After all, every country in the Union (except UK and Eire) watches subtitled or dubbed English-language content in primetime. That should give the UK a huge competitive advantage –but the dubbed and subtitled content is currently usually American.
It is instructive to look at the revenues of the six US studios. (This focuses us on fiction, that is drama and comedy series, the most important type of traded film and TV content.) We have figures for 2008, which tell us that total revenues from licensing content and DVD sales was over $21bn, with $9.2bn – that is, 44% of total sales -- coming from content sales outside the US.
There is no equivalent figure for the UK, but the TV Export survey conducted annually by Pact, the trade association for independent producers, indicates total sales of finished TV programmes (including DVDs) at £610m. (This survey does not include films so it is not directly comparable with the US figures in the chart). In addition the UK report does not break out the UK figures by genre. Assuming a large proportion of the £610m, say £400m, is probably fiction, it is nevertheless immediately obvious that the relationship between home and overseas sales in the US and UK are totally different. OK, so you have heard this before. What is the point of repeating it?
Because it raises this question. Should the UK not be setting its bar higher? Should we not be aiming to become the entertainment capital of Europe? We have significant competitive advantages, as outlined above. We are Europeans. And we have a strong production industry. Moreover aren't some of our basic genres – like the crime series – beginning to look provincial against the reality that so much crime is international – as in the case of little Sahil Saeed, kidnapped in Pakistan, ransom collected in Europe, criminals of various nationality foiled through the co-operation of many national police forces?