How a mixed ecology is driving record investment in the British TV industry

Posted On: 
17th January 2019

The British TV industry is no longer just about Public Service Broadcasters it is a thriving mixed ecology of different players, which the UK is particularly brilliant at encouraging - says COBA Chair  Heather Jones. 

Left to right – Heather Jones, chair of COBA and General Manager A+E Networks UK, Kevin Brennan MP, Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright, Adam Minns, Executive Director COBA

Just before Tuesday’s meaningful vote, the Commercial Broadcasters Association (COBA) welcomed politicians and senior broadcasting executives to a Parliamentary reception to celebrate a UK success story. For two hours at any rate, we could all unite in welcoming the record levels of investment in British TV being made by COBA broadcasters.

According to our 2019 Content Report, a major independent study for COBA, our members invest more than £1 billion per year in UK television production. Shows like Save Me, Sky’s searing drama which gripped more than 1.7 m people an episode. Or award-winning British children’s content like 101 Dalmatian Street - Disney’s biggest UK series ever. Factual entertainment such as Al Murray’s Why Does Everyone Hate the English?, from my own company A+E Networks.  Taskmaster from UKTV - one of the biggest players in the UK - and gold-standard news from Sky and others; CNN, for example, makes no less than four hours of news each day, right here in the UK.

Our report puts some numbers on that investment. Not only has annual investment crossed the £1 billion mark for the first time, it has increased by a staggering 75% in eight years. The “multichannel” broadcasting sector now provides around a quarter of all investment for British TV shows, and the economic benefit ripples out across the UK for independent production companies, crews, technicians and creatives.

This content is also hugely popular with viewers – the multichannel sector accounts for nearly a third of TV viewing. And, because COBA members are not statutory Public Service Broadcasters, this investment is made without public support such as the licence fee or privileged positions on the TV programme guide.

So our reception was about celebrating the multichannel sector’s coming of age. The British TV industry is no longer just about Public Service Broadcasters (as crucial and wonderful as they are) – it is a thriving mixed ecology of different players, which the UK is particularly brilliant at encouraging.

Along with celebrating, we asked politicians not to take it for granted. COBA members don’t have the luxury of the licence fee; they have to make a commercial return to justify the risk of investing these sums. Further HFSS advertising restrictions or forcing channels to take less prominent positions on the programme guide will potentially make investment more difficult in what are already uncertain times, thanks to Brexit and digital disruption from on-line and social media.

Public policy has encouraged this incredible mixed ecology, and your support is vital to enabling us to make this kind of investment. Whatever the future holds, I hope we can all unite in celebrating this fantastic British success story.

COBA is the industry body for multichannel broadcasters. For a copy of COBA’s 2019 Content Report click here.

 

Heather Jones is the Chair of COBA and A+E Networks’ General Manager UK and SVP of Content and Creative, EMEA