Film City Futures attended Broadcast Magazine's Indie Survey Reveal 2018 in London on Wednesday the 14th of March.
We discovered who the biggest and fastest-growing indies are and learned the trends shaping the sector, from consolidation and investment to movements in the regions.
During the introduction of Reveal Presentation, Chris Curtis and Robin Parker revealed that global revenues are up to £2.5billion - up 9% on 2016. Spending in drama indies has increased, with new players also entering the market. The top 10 producers are worth 39% of the market and the combined turnover of the top 10 indies is £969million (11% up on 2016).
Reality TV genres, such as those produced by MTV and Viacom, are gaining popularity - with Gobstopper Television up 315%. Robin discussed the fact that 90% of revenues still come from London, but with Channel 4's announcement of a new National HQ as well as two further regional hubs perhaps this will bring much needed movement and diversity within our nations and regions.
Streaming or Subscription Video on demand (SVoD) services are booming, with 15% of indies with a commission from an SVoD service. 73% percent of indies are in "active conversations" with SVoD providers, which could indicate a rise in upcoming productions. 71% said that drama is the strongest genre in British TV right now. However - although drama is robust and gains a wider audience - factual TV for SVoD promises an exciting future.
Overall, confidence in the sector is high - with 61% of indies more confident than a year ago.
Panel 1: Drama & Entertainment, Great Divide?
Sara Geater, All3Media
David Mortimer, Tinopolis
Diederick Santer, Kudos
Jon Thoday, Avalon
Victoria Ashbourne, Hello Dolly
Jon Thoday began the discussion by mentioning that the BBC has reduced spending on entertainment and drama - that there are many ideas but the broadcasters are not focusing on them. According to Sara Geater, broadcasters are "finding it difficult to crack studio entertainment shows", and she questioned if there could be any replacements. Less investment means less big hits.
However, Victoria Ashbourne made an interesting point that it is unfair to compare drama and entertainment: as they are produced and marketed differently. Dramas are given a chance to grow from the off-set, whereas entertainment shows are expected to be instant hits. We must allow entertainment shows to develop organically.
The path of the entertainer has been cut-off - e.g. developing talent from a young age and bringing them onto up-and-coming shows (such as Ant & Dec). David made a point that it has always been difficult to launch successful entertainment shows, and that this isn't a new issue.
Sara suggested that indies now need to have a solid strategy where they produce shows for a variety of distributors and that it's all about talent - in acquisitions and start-ups for scripted and non-scripted. Diedrick Santer agreed with this point by stating that production companies are "Thinking big and international whilst recognising British broadcasters, [they] want to serve the British market whilst tapping into UK talent". Shows like Midsummer Murders sell well internationally, so we know that this has a history of being successful.
We're living in a post-linear TV landscape, and fans feel that to keep the front page fresh they need new players on the market. This could be done through re-imagining previous shows - for example Netflix's Queer Eye - which has recently garnered global success. They emphasise the talent within their show, and as David Mortimer states "if the talent are recognisable then there's real value in that".
So, what could broadcasters and producers do differently to improve the industry?
The panel agreed that quicker decisions need to be made with regards to commissioning.
Panel 2: New players, new opportunities
Ian Russell, ITN Productions
Stuart Cabb, Plum Pictures
Kim Shillinglaw, Endemol Shine
Lorraine Ruckstuhl, Barclays
Stuart Cabb started the panel discussion by talking about the recent success of Plum Pictures' Girls Incarcerated. He divulged that the show owes much of its success to the pitching process and how much time they invested in it. Knowledge of drama production also helped to shape the series, and Stuart reiterated that "drama influences factual".
Shows creating a fan-base whilst reaching global audiences at the same time is rare but possible through latching on to niche genres, according to Kim Shillinglaw.
If shows want leverage they need to be diversified, and when you receive your initial contract you must plan for future seasons and have a vision for the future of the production.
Lorraine pointed out that indies need to make sure that they sell to more than Netflix: although they are an important player they might take over the playing field if nobody is branching out to other SVoD options.
Netflix also provides a global market for children's shows, making it the ideal place for UK productions to sell to and have a greater reach.