UK programming spend in decline, says Ofcom

Total spend on programming across the five main UK public service broadcast (PSB) channels, as well as the BBC’s digital channels, dropped 2% year-on-year in 2012, according to Ofcom stats. 

In its Public Service Broadcasting Annual Report 2013, the UK broadcast regulator said that the decrease in spend resulted in £2.9 billion (€3.37 billion) going on programming across the channels – a 17% real terms decrease over the last five years.

This was in spite of a substantial 14% increase on first-run sports rights spend to £563m thanks to the London Olympics and Paralympics, and a slight 0.3% year-on-year increase on first-run originated programmes to £2.5 billion.

“Over the five-year period between 2007 and 2012, first-run spend across the five main PSB channels and the BBC digital channels decreased by 13% (£384m) in real terms; the reductions in spend were most substantial on BBC Two (down 28%), while ITV/ITV Breakfast, Channel 4 and the BBC digital channels all recorded a decline of 13%,” said Ofcom.

However, year-on-year real-term spending on originated content varied by network – with BBC One upping spend by £55 million to £797 million as BBC2 had a £46 million decline to £286 million. ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 all maintained a similar level of spending on first run content in 2012 compared to 2011.

Ofcom said that viewers still continue to watch PSB channels in large numbers, but while the proportion of people who watched BBC One and Channel 5 in an average week has remained broadly stable over the last five years, weekly reach of BBC Two, ITV and Channel 4 has declined over the past five years.

BBC Two’s reach decreased from 58% in 2007 to 52% in 2012; ITV from 70% in 2007 to 64% in 2012; and Channel 4 from 59% in 2007 to 51% in 2012. BBC One stayed level at 78% while Channel 5 has gone from 40% reach in 2007 to 39% in 2012.

“The combined viewing share of the five main PSB channels was 52% in 2012, down from 64% in 2007. However, this decline is offset by an increase in viewing to their digital portfolio channels, with combined viewing almost doubling from 12% in 2007 to 21% in 2012,” said Ofcom.

The research found that 76% of viewers of PSB channels said they were satisfied with them, the same as a year earlier. News remained the most highly rated aspect of the PSBs, with 85% of viewers placing high importance on the provision of trustworthy news, compared to 81% last year.

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