BBC Commissioned Half Of All UK TV Scripted Shows Last Year, Ampere Research Finds

The BBC commissioned half of all UK TV scripted last year, defying the slowdown that hit its rivals and streamers and spending big on kids shows and thrillers, according to new research.

Ampere Analysis’ latest report found that the nation’s biggest public broadcaster greenlit 129 of 256 scripted shows in 2023, an increase of three on the prior year, although its comedy commissioning actually fell.

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While the BBC’s scripted show increase was minimal, it defied the losses experienced by rivals and took a larger share of the pie. The number of streamer commissions dipped by 20% to 49, commercial free-to-air-rivals nearly halved to 54 and pay-TV outfits such as Sky fell from 52 to 27. Major BBC scripted commissions last year included an adaptation of Lord of the Flies, Mr Loverman starring Lennie James and a double season order for Waterloo Road.

The BBC announced in 2023 that it would be cutting up to 1,000 hours of programing per year for the next few years due to savings targets and soaring inflation but Ampere suggested “the impact of these reductions has initially been felt by reductions in cheaper-to-produce unscripted programming.”

As the BBC tackled these budgetary pressures, changes in the scripted commissioning strategy of 2023 can be seen versus prior years. Kids shows grabbed the most orders out of the BBC’s scripted commissions, up by 23% year-on-year. Crime and thriller titles were up 16%, while comedy dropped 27% – the most heavily impacted of all scripted genres in 2023 with an overall decline of 41% among UK commissioners.

Last year was a tricky one for UK broadcasting, which was hit by the recession and U.S. strikes. The BBC is immune from the recession in the sense that it doesn’t rely on advertising but was handed a less-than-ideal license fee settlement that has left it with a shortfall of around £90M.

“As media consumption patterns continue to change, commissioning strategies are evolving,” said Zuzana Henkova, Senior Analyst at Ampere.

“While commercial operators and broadcasters adapt to pressures on consumer spend and a tough advertising landscape, public service broadcasters have maintained their commissioning activity. This is undoubtedly one of the strengths of the public funding model. As all broadcasters look for new ways to optimise their output, we expect to see the BBC continuing to explore partnerships and co-commissioning to stretch budgets for valuable – but expensive – scripted commissions.”

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