High-end TV productions are spending a record amount in the UK, according to new figures released by the BFI. In the first half of 2018, a hefty 48 high-end programs — these are tax incentive-qualifying shows with budgets of £1M+ per episode — started principal photography with a local spend of £486M ($640M), the highest amount for a six-month period since records began.
Among the 48, 25 are inward investment shows — meaning those with significant finance from outside the UK — with a local spend of £316M and 23 are domestic UK programs, with a spend of £171M.
Among the bumper crop of TV series to kick off this year are BBC/New Line production His Dark Materials, Sky/Amazon fantasy Britannia (season 2), Amazon comedy Catastrophe (season 4), BBC dramas MotherFatherSon and Summer Of Rockets, Channel4 thriller Jerusalem, Netflix’s latest season of Black Mirror and BBC/AMC series The Little Drummer Girl.
Total spend on high-end TV production in the 12 months from July 2017 to June 2018 was £1.1B, again the highest number since records began and a 17% increase on the previous high of £981M in 2016/17. Inward investment and co-production — which comes largely from U.S. companies — accounted for 76% of the £1.1B.
The extension of the UK tax credit to high-end TV in 2013 has clearly made the UK a highly desirable location for UK-U.S. drama. The shared language and skill of the crews here are incentives, and the UK is now driving hard to boost its number of production facilities. The internationalization of the TV drama biz in general is also helping to boost the number of collaborations.
Meanwhile, total spend on film production in the UK in H1 2018 was an impressive £936M, of which inward investment films contributed £752M or 80%.
Seventy-one films started principal photography: 18 inward investment features, 47 domestic UK features, and only six co-productions (spend on co-productions has also dwindled in recent years).
Films to kick off during H1 included studio fare such as Maleficent 2 and Wonder Woman 1984 while UK independents included Gurinder Chadha’s Blinded By The Light and the Gemma Arterton and Bill Nighy-voiced Spacedog And Turbocat.
In the rolling 12-month period July 2017 to June 2018, total spend on film production in the UK was $1.86B, which is currently below the total for the July 2016 to June 2017 rolling year. However, a time lag on collecting data means spend and number of movies is likely to be revised up.
A total of 201 films started shooting in the UK in the last 12 months. This number will also rise but the overall pattern is clear. The number of inward investment films has risen sharply in recent years (from 28 in 2011 to 56 last year) as the number of domestic movies declines (from 179 in 2011 to 134 last year). A glut of low-budget UK movies is unhealthy and unnecessary but as it looks to shore up its indigenous business the UK needs to keep an eye on increasing polarization.