Global Sales of U.K. TV Shows Dip, Library Content Deals Soar

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Global sales of British TV shows in 2020/21 declined 3.3% to £1.4 billion ($1.8 billion), the TV Exports Report from U.K. screen sector trade body Pact reveals.

COVID-19 affected production in the U.K., but producers enjoyed robust back catalogue sales. Library content more than four years old accounted for a third of sales, a 22% uptick from the previous year.

Drama proved to be the most popular genre, accounting for 53% of export revenues, an increase of 5% compared to the previous year. “I May Destroy You” and “It’s a Sin” were among the most popular titles. Factual shows accounted for 15% of exports with shows like like “Masterchef,” “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” and “Dragon’s Den” remaining popular.

Sales to streamers accounted for 44% of all finished program sales, up from 38% in 2019/20, with more than half of distributors surveyed having sold a program to Amazon Prime Video or Netflix.

The U.S. remains the U.K.’s biggest TV export market with £574 million in revenues, an increase of more than £100 million. In percentage terms, sales to the U.S. represent 46% of all revenues, up from 32% last year.

Australia accounted for £100 worth of sales and New Zealand £23 million.

Pact CEO John McVay said: “To post such a small reduction in exports despite the effects of the pandemic on the U.K. TV industry is further evidence of how resourceful producers have been throughout the pandemic to not only keep their businesses afloat, but to continue to bring quality, entertaining content to audiences around the world.”

U.K. Minister for Exports, Mike Freer, said: “The resilience this unique industry has shown through these extraordinarily difficult times leaves me in no doubt that it will continue to thrive in this golden era for global media.”

Louise Pederson, CEO, All3Media International, said: “The resilience, energy and ingenuity of the U.K. production and distribution industry is remarkable – and a genuine asset in the U.K.’s creative industries sector.”

Paul Dempsey, president, global distribution, BBC Studios, said: “British television is loved by audiences around the world and even when the pandemic interrupted new production, our rich back catalogue has kept viewers everywhere entertained.”

Ruth Berry, MD, global distribution at ITV Studios, added: “As an industry, we have collectively risen to the challenge of providing our partners across the world with quality UK programming during the pandemic and it’s wonderful to see the global desire for British television remains so strong. From ‘Poirot’ to ‘Line of Duty,’ the strength of our catalogue has come into its own once again, providing our buyers with a wealth of library content as well as some of the newest and most exciting shows of the year.”

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