Exports of UK television programming increased 20 percent in 2006 according to the UK trade association PACT.

Data referred to in the PACT press release, as does the reporting in World Screen News, indicates that this has been driven by a dramatic increase in revenue earned from sales of program formats.

The 87 percent leap in format sales is certainly notable, but it’s important also to look at the relatively small proportion of total export sales it accounts for.

Format trade was worth 56 million pounds in 2006 according to the “Sales by Type” disaggregated figures. If you do the math, this is about 9.5 percent of the total – an sizeable increase from 6 percent in the previous year, but can one say that it is driving export growth?

Sales of formats has received considerable attention in recent years and it is being looked at increasingly by producers as a way to increase exports by breaking into markets less receptive to foreign content, or similarly making headway into genres that tend to be locally produced.

“We make great shows that audiences throughout the world are watching and the UK distribution industry has benefited from the fact that, as rights owners, production companies are increasingly conscious of the international marketplace when they are developing ideas.”

Louise Pedersen
(managing director, All3Media International /
chair, PACT Exports Policy Group)

Exporting the intellectual property or idea of content for reproduction overseas also has governments all around the world excited, particularly those nations whose balance of payments are characterised by a significant deficit in trade in services, such as Japan for example.

Focusing on the international market is bound to make domestic industries more competitive, yet as an increasing number of production companies look to export their content via formats, several problems may well be on the horizon. I will leave addressing these issues to another post.