Report Overview

Programming outside the London bubble: Regions to be cheerful

Contents

Summary

  • Public Service Media (PSM) quotas, as well as ITV/STV’s unique history as a network of regional franchises, have ensured a significant amount of production still takes place outside London. But in an increasingly competitive audio-visual landscape, market forces have cemented the dominance of London and the South East. One recent study¹ from the Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre found that while 36.5% of film, TV, video, radio and photography employees were located in London in 1991, by 2018 clustering had intensified to 54.9%. Spend on content aligns with this: in 2020 UK’s public service broadcasters spent 52.5% of their budgets inside the M25
  • The arrival of global streaming services in the UK production ecosystem is a welcome contribution to the sector, providing most of the growth in investment, but Disney and Netflix’s spending on new production bases such as Pinewood (Buckinghamshire) and Shepperton Studios (Surrey) are unlikely to rebalance the UK economy away from London and the South
  • The broadcasters that are large enough to significantly ameliorate London-centrism and reorientate production to the nations and regions, and can be directed to do so, are the PSMs. This strategy represents a unique opportunity to gain a competitive advantage and differentiate PSM content from international streaming services, which create for a global audience, for a number of reasons:

The most loyal and resilient consumers of PSM content reside outside the M25 (see page 18). Moving production to the nations and regions of the UK and bringing commissioners and creative workers closer to the communities they serve will help to suffuse more local authenticity throughout on-screen content

Analysis of regional viewing habits for news, comedy, documentaries and drama indicates that audiences respond better to content that is grounded in their own experiences and that references their everyday lives (see pages 11-14)

Similarly, the PSMs that have embraced content made and set outside London have seen some improvements, or at the very least increased resilience in their regional viewing shares over time (see pages 19-22)

  • Recent efforts from the BBC and Channel 4 to move staff and programming away from London have been well received. But this must be followed up with the confidence and funding required to unlock the full potential of the UK’s creative economy and serve all audiences in the UK. The strength of the UK’s PSMs has always been their diversity and realism of storytelling, something which can be upheld by rooting employees and commissioners in local communities and exposing them to new ideas. If the nations and regions of the UK are the source for the most unique, meaningful (and popular) stories, the future success of Public Service Media lies in those places, not just inside London’s metropolitan bubble

¹The Changing Spatial Distribution of Employment in Creative Industry Clusters in England, 1991-2018, June 2020.

The UK viewing landscape

Regional content preferences

PSM performance by region

Appendix

Figures and Tables

Derry Girls share of viewing by region (%)

Daily average broadcast TV viewing by region, 6M 2021 (minutes)

Share of overall viewing minutes consumed inside and outside London by timeslot, 2019 (%)

TV viewing by age group and macro region, adults 16-34 (average daily minutes)

TV viewing by age group and macro region, adults 35+ (average daily minutes)

Unmatched viewing (average daily minutes, individuals 4+)

Unmatched TV set use as a % of total TV use*

Proportion of regular viewers who don’t think PSM channels portray their region fairly, 2019 (%)

BBC News: share of viewing for national and regional news, 2019

ITV News: share of viewing for national and regional news, 2019

Top 3 comedies ranked by difference in regional and national share of viewing

Derry Girls, difference between regional and national share of viewing (%)

Top 3 dramas ranked by difference between regional and national share of viewing

Bloodlands, difference between regional and national share of viewing (%)

Top 3 documentaries ranked by difference between regional and national share of viewing

Cornwall with Simon Reeve, difference between regional and national share of viewing (%)

Share of viewing by UK nation and region by soap, 2019 (%)

Royal weddings, share by UK nation (%)

Selection of Royal-themed factual programming, share by UK nation (%)

Share of viewing by region for each PSM channel, 2020 (%)

BBC family viewing share, by macro regions (%)

BBC family viewing share out of London, 2010-2021 (%)

ITV network full-time employees by region 2019 (%)

ITV family viewing share by region 2019 (%)

ITV family viewing share outside of London, 2010-2021

Proportion of first-run originated content spend out of London  (%)

Channel 4 share of viewing inside and outside London, 2010-2021 (%)

Number of minutes broadcast of Channel 5 programming with “Yorkshire” in title

Channel 5 family overall viewing share vs in Yorkshire, 2010-2021, indexed to 100 (%)