The analyst found broadcasters were in a challenging position, having been damaged by the effects of Covid-19 on advertiser confidence, experiencing gradually declining audience figures and facing down the steady entrance of major global streaming firms who are encroaching on their home territories. This ramp up of activity was regarded as much out of necessity for some groups as it was a strategic choice.
The report showed that in Q2 2021, the leading free-to-air groups in Western Europe’s largest TV markets – UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy – commissioned nearly 600 brand new first run TV shows for their channels and video-on-demand (VOD) products, an increase of 23% over pandemic-hit Q2 2020, and 64% over the same period in 2019.
Ampere observed that both scripted and unscripted commissions have seen gains on the pre-pandemic era. Nearly double the number of new scripted projects were commissioned in Q2 2021 compared to Q2 2020, and nearly a quarter more than in the same period in 2019. unscripted shows (largely Documentary, Reality and Light Entertainment shows) have been the largest beneficiaries, accounting for 80% of all commissions in the first half of 2021.
Owned-and-operated on-demand platforms have also been a slowly increasing factor in broadcasters’ commissioning strategies. In Q2 2021, commissions for VOD-debut titles represented 16% of all new commissions from major groups in the largest Western European markets, up five points compared to the same period pre-pandemic.
Commercial groups ITV and RTL stood out in the report. The two have grown significantly in terms of new commissions over the past two years. ITV commissioned over 60 new shows in the first half of 2021, versus 31 in the same period in 2019. Similarly, RTL doubled the volume of new projects for its properties, with over 90 projects greenlit in H1 2021 compared to 42 in the same period in 2019.
European groups were found to have been slower in general, to prioritise VOD-based projects than their US counterparts, which have taken a more aggressive approach with their own commissioning. Titles made for VOD platforms now represent between 35%-40% of new projects greenlit by US broadcast and network groups.
“Many of Europe’s commercial broadcasters have historically relied on licensed content to fill linear channel schedules, with US imports a key source of high-quality content. But as US media giants increasingly turn their attention to their own platforms, buyers have needed to find alternative options to bolster their slates for both linear and VOD to compensate for an increasingly siloed market,” commented Ampere Analysis research director Richard Broughton.
“Progress to accelerate the number of on-demand debuts is slow, with broadcasters having to manage their VOD ambitions alongside the competing demands of meeting the needs of broadcast audiences (and advertisers) and managing squeezed finances. But the major European broadcasters should not underestimate the important role that VOD-specific commissions play in driving adoption of their own streaming products.” Rapid TV News