British Content "Under Serious Threat" From Netflix & Co., BBC Boss Says

Luke Macgregor/Reuters
BBC director-general Tony Hall

"Their investment decisions are likely to focus increasingly on a narrow range of very expensive, very high-end content," Tony Hall says about streaming giants and warns of a $660 million spending hole.

The future of British-made TV shows, such as Sherlock and Broadchurch, is "under serious threat" amid the rise of Netflix, Amazon and Apple and other industry changes, BBC director-general Tony Hall will say Thursday evening.

"We have to face the reality that the British content we value and rely upon is under serious threat," he will state in a speech in Liverpool. The BBC made a copy of highlights of the speech available ahead of time.

The rise of streaming and tech giants and a drop in advertising revenue for commercial networks in Britain could lead to a drop in the amount spent on making shows in Britain by £500 million a year ($660 million) over the next decade, or more than 20 percent of the spending on British programs. Hall will suggest and argue this could lead to a decline in the volume and breadth, as well as the quality of TV programming.

The estimated funding drop comes from a report by Mediatique, commissioned by the BBC.

Hall will emphasize that the most watched TV content in the U.K. this year again was made in Britain, including the concert after the Manchester bombing, Broadchurch, Britain's Got Talent, Sherlock and Strictly Come Dancing. However, streaming services focus more on identifying shows with international hit potential, he will say.

"The reality is that their investment decisions are likely to focus increasingly on a narrow range of very expensive, very high-end content — big bankers that they can rely on to have international appeal and attract large global audiences," according to the key parts of Hall's speech.

He will also note that streamers are unlikely to make up much of the possible spending shortfall over the next decade. "Even the most generous calculations suggest they are barely likely to make up half of the £500 million British content gap over the decade ahead," it reads. "And a more realistic forecast points to substantially less."

Hall will also argue that the BBC should remain "a guardian of U.K. production," adding: "The BBC has always shown a great ability to adapt to new challenges and make them opportunities. If we get the response right now, and the rest of the industry does the same, then we can safeguard the future of homegrown content, and, rather than British content diminishing, we can kick-start a new golden age for British production."