Kate Bulkley, Media Analyst.

Broadcasters and streamers play it safe in tough times

By Kate Bulkley

Broadcast News

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For Broadcast January 30,2023

Reboots, safe bets and programme extensions are the order of the day as global production spending growth slows

Kate Bulkley

The rate of growth in global production spend is set to fall to 2% in 2023 from 6% last year, according to research group Ampere Analysis. Notwithstanding the production slowdown brought on by the pandemic, this growth rate is the lowest in a decade.

Meanwhile, spending on original content will fall by 3% globally, a huge hit to producers who have enjoyed a significant boom period over the past few years just to keep the streaming maw fed. The ray of sunshine for UK producers is that orders for linear broadcasters are set to remain pretty flat year on year.

ITV’s successful online video advertising results and the launch of ITVX are due to nudge the broadcaster’s spend up to £1.13bn this year, from £1.05bn in 2022. BBC spend is estimated to drop by only 3% to £1.21bn, Channel 4’s spend will fall 1% to £633m, while Channel 5’s will remain at £205m, according to Ampere forecasts. The BBC’s spending drop is due to pressure on the licence fee, while C4 has been hit by TV advertising revenue declines.

But UK producers are set to benefit from global streamers continuing to lean disproportionally into the UK creative production industry as they seek to produce more content outside the US. Total content spending globally for subscription streaming services, including Disney+, HBO Max and Netflix, will continue to increase – but only by 8% rather than the rampant 25% growth of 2022, Ampere suggests.

Netflix announced a content spending plateau through 2023, following its first-ever net subscriber loss in the second quarter of 2022, and pretty much all the streamers started to rethink their spend-to-grow plans. As Gunnar Wiedenfels, chief financial officer of the newly combined Warner Bros Discovery, told the Citi Communications, Media & Entertainment conference: “The industry change over the past 18 to 24 months has been pretty dramatic.”

“The video media business has been caught in the cold draft of capital markets and the lost faith in the economics of streaming TV”

Big economic headwinds are putting pressure on the TV advertising market overall, with the result being that commercial broadcasters are also cutting their spending. This does not bode well for the new ad-supported tiers on Netflix and Disney+, either. Indeed, broadcasters with both linear and streaming ad inventory to sell look to be better positioned.

The video media business has been caught in the cold draft of capital markets and lost faith in the economics of streaming TV.

So 2023 looks to be a reset year when commissioners are happy to entertain reboots and known programmes and formats as a big part of their content roadmaps.

One example is BBC1’s The Traitors – a proven format super-charged for the UK and US markets by Gogglebox creator Studio Lambert. Meanwhile, when something hits, it comes back significantly. Apple TV’s hit spy thriller Slow Horses (pictured top), made by UK/Australian indie See-Saw Films, debuted in April last year and has already been renewed for third and fourth seasons.

Hiring those with proven track records also make sense at a time when the market is looking for stability. Disney’s board brought back Bob Iger as chief executive late last year, barely two years after he vacated the top job – and in the wake of a 40% drop in the company’s share price.

The other trend that will likely only grow in 2023 is programme extensions – particularly into games. Netflix added video gaming as a big part of its product roadmap last year and ITV-backed studio and agency Metavision recently announced its second big show extension into the metaverse with a Traitors spin-off for Fortnite called Traitors vs Faithfuls.

Reboots, safe bets and programme extensions might well be the most sought-after content over the next 12 months.

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