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TV production revenues almost returned to pre-Covid levels in 2021, with multichannel operators doubling their spend year-on-year and ITV overtaking the BBC as the biggest investor in new commissions, according to Pact.

According to the indie body’s annual TV Production Census, indies generated close to £1bn for the UK economy.

The resumption of productions delayed from 2020 due to the pandemic, plus interventions such as the government’s Production Restart Scheme, grew the UK sector’s revenues by 13% to £3.25bn, just £79m below 2019’s figure.

Drama was the biggest genre by spend, accounting for 35%, ahead of entertainment (28%), reversing 2020's flip towards entertainment (33%) as a pause in drama production led to a drop in the genre's share to 29%.

Pact chief executive John McVay hailed British indies’ resilience in resuming production quickly but said Covid-related challenges remain, such as “a lack of viable insurance options for producers”.

UK commissions helped domestic TV revenues grow by 30% to pass £2bn. The four PSBs account for 77% of that spend, down from 2020’s 89% and back in line with 2019’s figure.

Multichannel operators, including Sky and UKTV, spent a record £443m, a 23% share, beating the previous high of £390m in 2019.

ITV was the biggest investor in new IP (as opposed to returning shows), spending £166m, or 38% of its commissioning spend, compared to the BBC’s £155m/27%.

The nations and regions eclipsed London for the first time, receiving 51% of production budgets. Multichannel operators spent 17% of their budgets outside London, up from 5% the previous year.

Of the 158 indies in Pact’s census, 9% now have turnover of more than £70m, up from 5% in 2020, with 18% now in the £25m-£70m bracket, up from 13%.

The biggest indies accounted for 44% of total revenues.

Domestic growth offset a second year of international revenues decline to £952m. Spend by international streamers such as Netflix and Amazon fell for the first time, down 16% to £299m, though Pact expects a resurgence in SVoD investment this year.

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