UK multichannel sector booms as revs reach 5BN

Joseph O'Halloran | 29-11-2013

Doubling employment in a decade, driving international success and even surpassing the BBC and other public service broadcasters, the UK multichannel industry is now worth 5 billion a year, says the Commercial Broadcasters Association (COBA).

COBA members include Bloomberg, BSkyB, Chinese Channel, Discovery Networks, Fox International Channels, NBCUniversal, QVC, Sony Pictures Television, Turner Broadcasting System, Viacom International Media Networks and the Walt Disney Company.

Attempting to show just how valuable the multichannel sector is in the overall TV sector, COBA quotes data from UK broadcast regulator Ofcom which calculates that revenue generated by multichannel broadcasters grew by 8% to more than 5 billion in 2012, with nearly half of this figure coming outside of sports and films genres. This, says COBA, makes the multichannel industry larger in scale than either the BBC, which it says has income allocated to TV of 2.8 billion, or the commercial PSBs (2.3 billion for the main commercial PSB channels).

Explaining the reason for the multichannel boom, COBAs research suggests that the UKs status as an international centre for broadcasting and television production is on the ascendancy, with broadcasters drawn by the UKs creative flair and production capability. Moreover, it adds that multichannel broadcasters have helped provide the critical mass the UK needs to compete globally and as a result has become a leading exporter of TV.

The majority of international broadcasters are basing their European headquarters in the UK. The UK multichannel sector now broadcasts 127 non-UK channels to the rest of the world. Not surprisingly, London is at the heart of this booming TV economy with employment in the industry doubling over the last decade to 12,300.

In addition, inward production investment, supported by the new tax reliefs for high-end TV and animation, is leading to sustained investment in UK studios and facilities, as well as production itself. The UKs multichannel sector has increased investment in UK content by nearly 30% in the last three years, with seven out of ten international broadcasters committing to increasing investment further over the next five years.

Production financing from a multichannels non-UK operations has grown to 35% in 2012, up considerably on 2011. Two-thirds (67%) of UK multichannel operations now commission content for both domestic and international audiences.

Of those involved in commissioning and production in the relevant genres of high-end TV and animation, 62% (where reliefs are applicable) of companies surveyed plan to increase investment in the UK following the introduction of the new tax reliefs. A third of multichannel spend was on smaller independent producers with turnover of less than 25 million, more than the BBC (26%), ITV (18%) and Channel 4 (20%).

The UK TV industry is a world-renowned success story, but ensuring its ongoing global competitiveness will be key to future growth, commented Dee Forbes, COBA chair and president & managing director, Discovery Networks Western Europe. "As this report shows, the multichannel sector is crucial to the UKs ability to compete globally, providing scale and the ability to unlock international markets.

Added Adrian Wootton, chief executive of Film London and the British Film Commission: As this report highlights, London and the UKs world-renowned creative talent and production base give us a huge advantage in encouraging domestic commissioning and investment, as well as crucially attracting finance and production from abroad. Combine this creative flair with other key factors such as our infrastructure and a competitive market, and the UK is perfectly placed as a global TV hub.