The BBC has warned that it risks being squeezed out of an “ever more competitive global market” by the likes of Netflix and Amazon as well as the Hollywood studios unless it find new ways to bolster its income. This comes as it publishes its Annual Plan, a report laying out its programming strategy for the forthcoming year including plans to launch 15 new dramas on flagship channel BBC One and bolster comedy on BBC Three.
Tony Hall, Director General of the British public broadcaster, said that the market is “shifting at speed but investment in British content is falling” alongside “super-inflation in scripted production costs and talent pay. “Major new entrants such as Amazon and Netflix have meant that the global media market is increasingly dominated by a small number of US-based media giants with extraordinary creative and financial firepower,” he said.
He said that the consolidation in the production sector, led by Hollywood studios such as Fox, Warner Bros and Sony Pictures Television as well as the likes of Discovery, could see the BBC being “squeezed out”, highlighting that less than 40% of independent production companies in the UK were UK or European-owned, a significant drop from 83% ten years ago.
“These are global businesses that are determined not just to produce their own content but to control how it is distributed and marketed right around the world. This increases the risk of the BBC being squeezed out of an ever more competitive global market.
“Over the next ten years we expect a very substantial gap to open up between the amount that is spent on UK content now and the amount that will be spent in the future,” he added.
However, despite Hall’s proclamations of doom, the BBC is increasing its television content budget for the coming year, with overall TV spend set to rise from £1.6B to £1.72B. BBC One’s budget rises from £1B to £1.12B, while BBC Two will see a small fall from £386M to £371M.
It laid out plans for BBC One to broadcast at least 15 new drama titles during the year including Bodyguard, from the makers of Line of Duty, Hugh Grant’s A Very English Scandal, Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor Who and Toni Collette-fronted relationship drama Wanderlust. Meanwhile, Hall highlighted BBC Two dramas such as Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson’s King Lear, the adaptation of China Miéville’s The City and the City, political thriller Black Earth Rising from Hugo Blick and Mother Father Son, from American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianna Versace writer Tom Rob Smith.
Elsewhere, BBC Three, which had success with Phoebe Waller Bridge’s Fleabag is being backed to commissioned “substantial” scripted content including at least five long-form comedies, while BBC Four is expanding its international remit with at least three new factual acquisitions aiming to offer insight into global history and culture.