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Fighting back – The rise of UK indie production

Post Author Take1 / January 26th 2015

In 2013, British indies made a combined £3bn-plus in revenue from their programme making, and a third of that figure was from selling shows outside of the UK. But the majority of these UK production companies are now parented by heavy-weight foreign companies, mainly from the US.

Companies like 21st Century Fox, Sony, and NBC are now massive players in the UK indie market because of their recent purchases, and it’s this flurry of deal making that has sparked fears within the industry.

The concern is that the creativity on which the UK production industry has built its name will halt. In its place, turning a profit will be put before anything else. Adding fuel to that fire, Rupert Murdoch announced last year his plans to create one of the biggest production houses in the world with a merger of Endemol, Core Media Group, and Fox’s Shine. This indicates that Murdoch, one of the widest reaching names in the industry, believes that only the biggest companies can survive.

There has though, in recent months been an encouraging counter trend to the indie consolidation. Many producers, executives, and directors have taken a shift and chosen to start up their very own production companies, meaning new Indies are sprouting up at an astonishing rate.

But why?

In such an on-demand environment the channel driven model that TV has worked on for so many years is no longer effective. It is vital to own content; renting the rights just doesn’t work. And that’s what a lot of American heavy-weights have in mind when buying up Indies – they can push the shows created through digital channels like Netflix and Amazon Prime which in turn, open up a wide variety of revenue streams.

There are some directors however, who are less inclined to relinquish rights to their work. And so they create start ups with the sole intention of holding onto their own projects.

Another reason is that many big names simply do not want to become part of a conglomerate where financial targets are more important than anything else.

But surely broadcasters are a little more cautious about working with new start-ups?

Well not quite – providing that they have good track records, broadcasters actually prefer to work with a smaller outfit. The bottom line that a good idea is a good idea – no matter where it’s from.

What makes the opportunity for these fledgling companies even more powerful is the competition between channels. It’s such a close run market that commissioners need new, fresh, exciting ideas to survive. And the American conglomerated indies, driven by financial targets, won’t be inclined to take risks.

There are digital platforms for start-ups to make use of too; companies like Netflix and Amazon are starting to look towards creating their very own content. And at the low-cost end, there’s work creating shows for YouTube too.

So while a lot of UK indies are being snapped up by big American names, there are plenty of new start-up production companies sprouting in their place. Not time to worry yet.

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