March 2019

Broadcast Indie Survey 2019 reveal and lessons for the solo media entrepreneur

The 19thof March 2019 marked the preview release of this year’s Broadcast magazines Indie Survey at the Southbank Centre and it opened up an can of worms for the upcoming “Streaming Wars” as I have named it but also shed light on the fact that the broadcast industry in content production and sales is still moving upwards.

So, the money generated by the indie television sector has grown by 12% to £2.8bn overall but with this rise shows a trend towards the bigger indie production companies getting bigger mainly due to the global deals that they make.

Talking of big companies, All 3 Media and for the first time ahead of Endemol/Shine, but only by a pinch and with the renewed focus of UK regional and national companies due to Channel 4 move away from London, the top 30 regional indie production companies account for £317 million in revenues. Another interesting fact is that a lot of the production companies who took part in the survey feel that competition in getting commission has risen and not just from the traditional playing in the market but also from far smaller and less established companies as well.

Diversity also played a part in the survey revealing that although the on-screen representation of people from under-represented groups was up on last year, off-screen talent actually fell from the numbers reported in the previous 12 months. This worrying trend is most notable not only in the areas of people of colour but also in the areas of age and class pointing to a possible “close network of friends” and “it is who you know” that determines career starts or progression in the television industry.

Other takeaways include the fact that 66% of the industry feel Brexit will have no impact on their core business and the aforementioned streaming companies and “F.A.N.G’s” (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Google) and their new upcoming rivals has changed the way that business is done as well as change the flow of income.

All of this was confirmed via the two sets of talks during the morning preview with Sara Geater from All3Media, Richard Johnston of Endemol Shine UK, Camilla Lewis from Curve Media and Suzy Dark of Naked Television talking about the ‘State of the Nation’. Stephen McQuillan from Icon Films, Rick Murray of Workerbee and Mair Davies from Avanti Media also picked up this subject but expanded the view to talk about the new focus of ‘Regions and Nations’ commissioning.

The state of the nation opened up the debate with Sara Geater reminding us that business is good and it is talent and good stories that make the world go round. Richard pointed out that non-scripted has grown both locally and internationally over the last two year but the market for content buyers has also grown from 3 or 4 companies to around 10-15. This could be due to more companies needing content for their platform via the internet but that is just the best guess. Camilla and Susie pointed to the up and down nature of the business when trying to win commissions from the expanded range of competition but Susie was confident that new format will continue to be a business builder. The first panel all agreed that although there are more buyers the growth in competition from other indies is a challenge.

Other points came out of this first panel relating to the streaming companies that I will touch in other articles.

The ‘Nations and Regions’ panel touch on some of the same growth areas but also showed that the move by Channel 4 to spread their offices to other regional locations may not lead to the increase in regional commissioning.

There is way too much information for just one article but I wanted to highlight how this all may seem like an opportunity for the solo-entrepreneur.

With the need for content not slowing down it has to be noted that because you are not established, it does not mean that your idea or program format has no place. There are places for your show or idea but it may not be with the big broadcasters and it may not start in the UK either.

If you are a lone media player protect your IP at all costs. In this day and age of increased competition comes the real risk of losing out due to an unprotected idea being “adapted” by a more established player. Despite what may be said otherwise it is still a risk not worth taking.

Make your sizzle reels, get those meeting, and partner with other companies but until your company has a real foothold, be bold but also be wise.