Warner, NBCUniversal Executives Discuss Brexit at London TV Conference

TV reporter pose with a Great Britain flag-Getty-H 2016
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"It's concerning," says NBCU CEO Steve Burke, while Warner Bros.' Josh Berger says Britain must continue to be able to attract creatives.

Britain's decision to leave the European Union was a key topic of debate at the Royal Television Society's London conference on Tuesday.

"It's concerning. Business people don't like uncertainty, even if the uncertainty is two, three, four, five years from now," NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke said in his opening keynote appearance. "We have had such a good experience creatively in the United Kingdom, and it’s the headquarters of our international operations that you hope and pray it will remain that way forever.”

He said he had a 7:30am conference call about the fallout the day after the June referendum.

Warner Bros. Entertainment's president and managing director, U.K., Ireland and Spain Josh Berger, who has dual U.S. and U.K. citizenship, during a Brexit panel at the conference was asked if he would have to move now? "I'm a British citizen, so I think not," he responded, drawing applause and laughter. “I’m staying here," he reiterated later.

He said that it could prove hard to attract European creatives if there was a so-called hard Brexit without some additional agreements on free movement and the like. "The ability to continue to attract talent that comes here ... is critical, and that will be part of that negotiation," he said. 

Berger also said that the country of origin of network owners will be "the other major issue." With many networks operated by U.S. or other foreign companies licensed in Britain, if those licenses don’t count anymore, there could be fallout. "Those [network owners] would have to move onto the continent to license their product, he said.

So, negotiations between the EU and Britain about details of the Brexit and their future business and other relationships will be key and of particular interest to entertainment industry players, Berger said.

If Britain becomes a less appealing market for entertainment companies, what would happen? China is "a massive opportunity," with or without Brexit, Berger said. But he added that the Brexit may force industry companies to look at other international markets more aggressively.