The Rise and Rise of High End Television


It’s been a time of change for the industry over the last eighteen months, the writers and actors strike, across the pond, caused more than small ripples in the UK.  Now that the dust has settled we’re starting to learn that there has been a step change in the industry as a whole.

It’s not just the strikes of 2023 that have caused the evolution of the landscape, we also need to look at our recent past.  From  the lockdowns of Covid 19, which accelerated the inevitable rise of SVoD services, to the big players like Netflix and Amazon creating steep competition, we’ve also had a cost of living crisis.

The rise in the number of SVoD services has also split the money consumers are willing to spend. 5 years ago Netflix & Amazon had a fair share of the market, but as extra players have come in they’ve had to fight hard to keep their share. Consumers don’t have the income to support Netflix, Amazon, Apple, Paramount, Disney+ etc and are much more savvy selecting and turning services on and off monthly once a whole series has been released. This is leading to a rationalisation of some services as they can’t sustain the numbers of subscribers during the halcyon days of 2020-22. Netflix has a large share and seems currently to be a winner along with Amazon & Apple who don’t rely on TV subscriptions for the majority of their income. Major organisations will have to rationalise and merge in order to survive and many of these are hanging on by using their massive historical libraries and previous hit shows. But this isn’t an easy prospect as demonstrated by the proposal of the Paramount/Skydance merger, which collapsed this week.

Credit: Amazon Prime

To say that cinema is dead would be going too far but when we see headlines about Cineworld filing for bankruptcy we know there’s change in the air.  

The BFI have just released their Q1 figures of 2024 and UK film production spend is down 45% from Q1 in 2023.  It’s still a healthy figure of £211m for the first quarter.  This perhaps isn’t such a shock when considering all the reasons above, what is surprising is that there is more positive news for high end TV (HETV).  27 productions began principal photography in the first three months of 2024 with a total UK spend of £691m, this is an increase on the £549 million for the same period last year.

The ‘Hollywood Contraction’ is happening and we can see from the BFI’s figures that this is affecting feature films much more than HETV.  Hollywood are having to respond and change the way they operate.  Due to the incredible amount of streaming services and the new content that they continually create, studios were spending a huge amount on big-budget films but they’re having to move away from at any cost productions as the box office revenue hasn’t quite been living up to expectations.  Films which would have previously been box office heavy weights haven’t been hitting the mark.

2023 saw the Barbenheimer phenomenon but so far in 2024 there have been some surprisingly disappointing results in the box office, most notably from The Fall Guy which stars Ryan Gosling from Barbie and Oppenheimer’s Emily Blunt.  The opening weekend the film raked in just $27m and in total to date the revenue is at $75m.  For films that cost almost more than this to make, alarm bells are ringing in Hollywood.  The more recently released Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga took a similar amount in the opening weekend and sales have been sluggish since.

Perhaps it’s no surprise that investors are more inclined to back HETV which doesn’t rely on cinema release and can go viral on the SVoD channels.  Series like Baby Reindeer which would have been inexpensive to make has stunned the ratings, this series which doesn’t even qualify as HETV sat at the top of the Netflix chart for weeks.  Eric, the new Benedict Cumberbatch project is performing similarly well.

Whatever happens the UK remains a leading centre for film and TV production.  The generous tax relief that was re-confirmed in the spring budget will ensure that production in both film and HETV continue to grow in the UK.  

Among the world class feature films and high-end TV titles made last year, which were made in London and the South East, were The Amateur, The Day of the Jackal, Ghostbusters Afterlife: Frozen Empire, Beetlejuice sequel, Deadpool 3, The Gorge, House of the Dragon Season 2, Sonic the Hedgehog 3, The Diplomat Season 2.

It’s not just London benefitting from incentives, the regions are also picking up more production.  This is great news for us here..  The Amateur filmed predominantly in London but we were pleased to work with the production late last year in Suffolk.