Report: Cost Of UK Drama Fell Last Year For First Time Since 2015; International Revenues Propping Up Sector

Peaky Blinders
Matt Squire | © Caryn Mandabach Productions Ltd 2017

EXCLUSIVE: The average cost of UK-produced drama per hour fell in 2020 for the first time in five years, according to research that spotlights how international revenues are increasingly propping up the sector.

The price of one hour of drama tumbled by 20% from a record £1.4M ($1.9M) in 2019 to £1.1M ($1.5M), reversing a five-year trend, according to the report from tech, media and telecoms consultancy WorkShare Consulting for online marketplace Vuulr.

Overall spend on drama declined by an even larger 32% to £769M ($1BN), the report found, in a nation which has a tax credit for any productions that cost more than £1M ($1.3M) per hour.

In 2020, the UK drama market was heavily impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, with production completely shut down between April and June and only starting up again once stringent and costly protocols had been put in place.

The comedy genre, however, defied the odds by growing slightly in terms of cost per hour to £500,000 ($660,000) and only fell by 3% to £114M ($150M) for overall spend, with shows such as BBC1/Amazon’s The Outlaws filmed during the period. Factual remained steady at £200,000 ($260,000) per hour,  as did entertainment and factual-entertainment, genres that were easier to produce under severe restrictions.

The drama declines look set to reverse this year, with BFI research yesterday predicting 2021 could see £6BN ($8BN) spent on high-end TV drama productions and film, which would be a record.

Meanwhile,  the Workshare report spotlighted how revenues from abroad are becoming ever more important for UK producers.

Indie revenue from international buyers rose above 40% of overall revenues for the first time, a figure that has more-than doubled in the last eight years and even increased by 4 percentage points during last year’s pandemic-impacted 12 months. Workshare said companies reliant on “domestic funding for production were hit far harder than those able to tap into budgets from international buyers.”

When domestic was also taken into account, overall indie revenues fell by around 17% to £3.4BN ($4.5BN), which Workshare described as “nothing short of remarkable” considering the “length and severity of restrictions and slashing of broadcaster budgets.”

Half of the £3.4BN was comprised of revenue from distribution, as domestic and international buyers sought to swiftly buy content to replace shows that were unable to film.

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