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Industry / Market - Europe

Industry Report: Series

The European Audiovisual Observatory publishes a new edition of its report on European television production

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The study, released during this year’s MIPTV, reveals that European TV fiction production dropped by 600 hours in 2020, while high-end series kept on growing

The European Audiovisual Observatory publishes a new edition of its report on European television production

On 5 April, the European Audiovisual Observatory (EAO) has published a new report titled “Audiovisual fiction production in Europe 2020 figures” and authored by Gilles Fontaine. In detail, the study analyses “the volume, formats, origin, commissioners and producers of original European TV films and series released on TV and SVOD between 2015 and 2020.”

The document highlights that the impact of COVID-19 may not be fully reflected as series released in 2020 may have been produced earlier. Nevertheless, the figures show a drop in the volume of European TV fiction production (“over 600 hours or -4%”), attributable to “the interruption of the shooting of telenovelas/soaps in certain countries.” Meanwhile, the growth of short series (including two or three episodes) continued but slowed down by 5% in 2020 in comparison with the +11% average increase recorded between 2015 and 2020.

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The study also argues that the pandemic “did not affect some of the fundamental characteristics of TV production in Europe.” Specifically, telenovelas and soaps accounted for 60% of hours produced and over half of all titles produced are 2- to 13-episode-season series. In addition, the study notes that “the average number of episodes per season and the average duration of episodes is slowly decreasing, probably as a way to cope with the increase of budgets.”

The document also digs deep into regional differences. Thanks to the large volumes of telenovelas and soaps, Greece and Spain lead European TV fiction in terms of hours produced, whilst Hungary and Portugal “are two other examples of countries driven by more than 52- episode-per-season series.” Germany is the country producing “the highest number of different titles, in particular with more focus than the average country on TV films,” and the UK is the leader in producing shorter seasons comprising two or three episodes.

After a peak recorded in 2018, the study reveals that there were fewer international co-productions in 2019 and 2020. More broadly, “international co-productions account for 10% of all fiction titles and are mostly limited to TV films and to 2- to 3-episode-season series.” There used to be a tendency to co-produce between neighbouring countries sharing the same language (for example, Belgium and France or Germany and Austria), but “non-linguistic co-productions increased in 2020 and represented close to 65% of all co-productions.” Such increase is being driven by the UK (often as a majority co-producer, co-producing with the USA, Canada and France), Germany (usually as a minority co-producer with Scandinavia) and Scandinavian countries (collaborating among themselves).

The report finds that the BBC, Netflix and ARD are the three main commissioners of 2-to 3- episode series. Moreover, in 2020 pubcasters accounted for 57% of all fiction titles commissioned, and private broadcasters for 61% of hours. Pubcasters tended to focus more on TV films and short series, whilst commercial broadcasters on telenovelas and soaps. Meanwhile, “global streamers released 71 original European series in 2020, vs. 49 in 2019, with close to 70% commissioned by Netflix,” with US-based groups “contributing to the production of European fiction through their Europe subsidiaries.”

The last key finding shows a huge turnover across the sector. In terms of production outfits and groups, for example, almost 1,200 of them produced “at least one fiction title between 2015 and 2020, but only 7% of them produced at least one title in each of the last six years.”

In terms of manpower, 42% of the directors were active in only one year between 2015 and 2020, with just 8% of them credited for at least one episode during each of the six years.  Furthermore, 48% of screenwriters were active in only one year, and only 7% of them were credited for at least one episode during each of the six years.

Finally, both screenwriters and directors tend to be specialised by format: only 19% of screenwriters and 24% of directors were credited for at least one episode of two or more different-format projects.

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