UK Public Service Broadcasters have increased their spend on drama in real terms in the past year, compared to 2014, while spending on kids content and comedy has dropped in real terms in the same time period, it has emerged.
First run UK originated drama programming (not including soaps) saw a 12% increase in spend, rising to £311 million; up from £278 million in 2014. It is worth noting that while that is a not-insignificant year-to-year rise, it is roughly in-line with the average drama spend over the past few years, and down significantly from the 2005 high of £87 million. Output was likewise up, with drama accounting for 416 hours of content in 2015, up from 371 hours in 2014.
Kids content, meanwhile, shrunk on PSBs. Total spend was £77 million, down from £88 million in 2014; while output was down by 92 hours for a total of 580 hours in 2015 – making it the first time since 1998 that output had been below 600 hours since 1998. There were similar declines in comedy programming. Comedy output shrunk by 9% to 193 hours, and spend was down from £103 million to £99 million. Content spend as a whole for UK PSBs hit £2.5 billion in 2015, flat with spending from 2014, but nevertheless down from more than £3 billion in 2005,
The spending revelations come from Ofcom’s PSB Annual Research Report, which explores what the numerous Public Service Broadcasters (BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and S4C) are spending on programmes and the range of content they show. The report also revealed a widening generational gap when it comes to consumption of PSB content on live TV vs on-demand.
The average UK viewer watched 3 hours and 36 minutes of television, 26 minutes a day less than in 2010. The majority of that decline appears to have come from younger demographics (16-24, 25-34 and 35-44), while viewership of older demographics was more-or-less stable. The cause of the decline with younger viewers appears to be due to the rising use of myriad on-demand services, both free (such as BBC iPlayer and ITV Hub) and pay (Netflix, Amazon Prime). That is readily apparent with 16-24 year olds who, per Ofcom, spend a combined 33% of viewing time on VOD services, vs 36% on live TV. Conversely, live TV accounted for 83% of viewing for over 65s.