Program Spend by U.K. TV Public Service Broadcasters Slumps

BBC One, BBC Two, ITV1, Channel 4, Channel 5 and the BBC digital channels and S4C collectively spent $4.4 billion in 2011, down eight percent from 2010.

LONDON – British network programming spend across BBC One, BBC Two, ITV1, Channel 4, Channel 5 and the BBC digital channels and S4C slumped in 2011 to £2.8 billion ($4.4 billion) in 2011, down 8 percent in real terms from the previous year.

U.K. media watchdog Ofcom's Public Service Broadcasting Annual Report 2012, published Thursday, notes the fall continues a five-year downward trend in investment.

And the pain didn't stop there for the channel's commissioners. The report also shows spending on first-run originated programs dropped by 6 percent in real terms in 2011, hitting £2.4 billion ($3.7 billion).

Since 2006, first-run spending was down by 18 percent in real terms, Ofcom notes in its report on the U.K.'s public service broadcasting industry which aims to provide data to assess whether or not the PSB are delivering on their public service remit.

While Ofcom's annual report next year will contain details of a mega-summer of sport with the European Soccer Championships reaching an end in the next few days and the London Olympics 2012 coming, last year was "a quieter year for sport."

Ofcom noted first-run spending on sport fell 23 percent compared to 2010, a year which included the football World Cup and the Winter Olympics.

Excluding sport, first-run spending fell by 0.3 per cent year on year.

Real term changes in first-run spending varied across individual channels.

The largest percentage increase was Channel 5, up by 45 percent to £95 million ($148 million).

In absolute terms Channel 4 had the largest increase, up by £35 million ($54.6 million) to £372 million ($580.5 million).

The largest percentage fall came at the BBC's premier channel BBC One which posted a 16 percent fall to £719 million ($1.1 billion).

In absolute terms, BBC One was also crowned with the largest fall, down by £140 million ($218.5 million) year on year.

Despite the falls in spend, overall hours of first-run programming increased by 295 hours in 2011 to 32,167 across the PSBers.

This rise was due the commercial PSBs, who combined increased their first-run hours by 495 in 2011.

The BBC channels saw a decline of 200 hours of first-run content.

Viewing figures in 2011 made for better reading for the BBC, with the proportion of people watching BBC One in a typical week growing slightly over the last five years from 77 percent in 2006 to 79 percent in 2011.

And BBC Two has grown from 52 percent to 54 percent in the same time span.

But ITV1, Channel 4 and Channel 5 have each decreased since 2006.

ITV1 fell from 69 percent to 67 percent, Channel 4 from 57 percent to 53 percent and Channel 5 from 42 per cent to 40 percent).

And each of the main five PSB channels has seen a decline in their share of television viewing, with their aggregated share down from 67 percent in 2006 to 54 percent in 2011.

Satcasters and cablers will account for some of the fall but Ofcom notes also that digital channel offerings have been in part responsible for cannibalizing the main channel audiences.

At the same time their digital portfolio channels have each increased in share, in total they rose from 9 percent in 2006 to just under 20 per cent in 2011.

As a result the combined share of the main five PSBs and their digital portfolio channels stood at 73 percent in 2011, versus 76 percent in 2006.

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