UK PSB spending on first-run content shows long-term decline

DetailsEditor | 21 July 2015

Data from UK regulator Ofcom has revealed the struggles public service broadcasters (PSBs) are still facing even seven years after the credit crunch.

Ofcom's annual report examined how UK PSBs the BBC, ITV, STV, UTV, Channel 4, S4C and Channel 5 are delivering the public service purposes set out in the Communications Act.

It found that overall audience satisfaction remains high, with around eight in ten viewers believing PSB is delivering on its purposes and characteristics such as trustworthy news and high quality content. Viewing to the main PSB channels BBC One, BBC Two, ITV, UTV, STV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 remained steady and accounted for over half of all TV viewing in 2014. Ofcom added that if the PSB's portfolio of channels, such as time shifted '+1' channels, had been taken into account, the combined viewing share of the PSB broadcasters would have accounted for almost three-quarters (72%) of all viewing.

The report also showed that the amount of, and spending on, first-run UK originated content both increased slightly in 2014 compared with 2013. Yet when looking at the long-term trend since the credit crunch first began to bite inn 2008, PSB spending on first-run UK content has fallen by around 440 million in real terms, a decline of 15%, over the seven years.

In all, the PSB channels, including the BBC portfolio channels, spent a total of 2.85 billion on all network television content in 2014. The commercial PSB channels ITV/ITV Breakfast, Channel 4 and Channel 5 contributed 1.49 billion, while the BBC contributed 1.36 billion.

Year-on-year, overall spend increased by 2% in real terms from the 2.79 total spend of 2013. The BBC's spend increased by 4%, 50 million in real terms, and that of the commercial PSB channels increased by 11 million (1%) over the same period. Total spend on first-run UK originated network content by the PSB channels increased by 3% in real terms to 2.52 billion from 2013 to 2014. Yet Ofcom noted that with 2014 featuring the Brazil World Cup and the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, the increase was predominantly driven by the 36% real term increase in first-run UK originated sport spend year-on-year.