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INDUSTRY / MARKET Europe

Growth in content investment will fall this year, says Ampere Analysis’s latest report

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- The British firm’s latest figures suggest that global content expenditure will increase by just 2% year on year, marking the lowest growth in over a decade excluding the COVID-driven slump of 2020

Growth in content investment will fall this year, says Ampere Analysis’s latest report
Research manager at Ampere Analysis Hannah Walsh

Growth in content investment will fall in 2023, reveals Ampere Analysis’s latest report. In detail, the British firm’s analysts expect global content expenditure to increase by just 2% year on year, thus marking the lowest growth in over a decade excluding the COVID-driven slump of 2020.

The report highlights that this trend is in “stark contrast to 2022, during which global content spend is projected to have grown by 6% to $238 billion (circa €220 billion), driven primarily by subscription video-on-demand (SVoD) platforms”. Despite some concerns, SVoD services collectively spent over $26 billion (circa €24 billion) on original content last year.

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That being said, Ampere figures also show that “the story isn’t uniform across media groups”, as “some will continue to drive investment through 2023, while others will cut back”. In particular, Disney and Warner Bros Discovery are set to overtake Comcast as the leading investors in original content, with Disney reaching $10.5 billion (circa €9.7 billion) and Warner Bros Discovery surpassing $9.5 billion (circa €8.7 billion). Meanwhile, Netflix will continue to lead dedicated SVoD spend, contributing to over 25% of global SVoD original content investment.

Moreover, commercial broadcasters will face a 3% decline in content spend, continuing “to linger below pre-pandemic levels, driven by declines in broadcast TV advertising revenue stemming from wider economic weakness and the ongoing shift of audiences to streaming platforms”.

Cineuropa spoke to Hannah Walsh, research manager at Ampere Analysis, to delve into the slump’s impact on European audiovisual markets. Talking about linear TV, Walsh first pointed out, “The USA is set to be the hardest-hit region in 2023, with declines in content spend of -2% year on year, primarily due to it being a non-event year this year”, with “no Olympic Games or presidential/mid-term elections taking place”.

“By comparison, Europe is set to see growth in its content spend [+1%], albeit to a lesser extent than previous years. This slump in growth is largely being driven by Western Europe, as economic headwinds will cause advertisers to pull back spend on advertising, therefore reducing broadcaster revenue available to spend on content. But all markets and companies are due to see a different impact,” she said.

Focusing on territorial differences, Walsh underscored how the French pay-TV and TV advertising markets have remained robust over the last decade (excluding 2020), compared to neighbouring Western European countries. “French broadcasters have opted to produce more local-language content to attract local audiences and compete with international SVoD platforms.”

According to Walsh, Germany is trying to follow the French example, whilst “Italian and Spanish broadcasters will see a decline in content spend as advertising and pay-TV revenues continue to decline across both markets”.

Meanwhile, the UK’s content spend “is set to remain flat but with a shift in company spending”. For example, ITV is likely to see growth thanks to the launch of its ITV X platform, whilst Channel 4 and the BBC will see a reduction. The latter’s cut is also linked with the ongoing controversy around the cost of the TV licence fee.

Next, the analyst stressed how SVoD players will keep on aiming to “attract local audiences outside of the USA while also taking advantage of cheaper production costs and/or funding grants for productions outside of the USA”. For example, last year, 64% of Netflix’s original content spend was for productions outside of the USA. Other players such as Disney are following suit – in 2022, 43% of Disney+’s original content spend was dedicated to non-US productions (up from 9% in 2021).

Finally, we asked Walsh what type of impact the post-pandemic crisis and the Russian-Ukrainian war are having on the continent’s markets. First, she told us how the health crisis gave “a huge knock to TV advertising revenue across the globe […]. This, paired with declining linear TV viewing, meant that TV advertising revenue in most markets has not increased to pre-pandemic levels. In some markets, online video advertising has propped up broadcaster revenue, but most broadcasters are faced with declines in revenue and therefore smaller budgets to invest in content,” she explained.

Interestingly, the pandemic has also given rise to “a shift from commissioning scripted TV shows to unscripted TV shows”, and this trend is expected to continue in 2023: “Unscripted formats, such as reality and documentary shows, are typically cheaper to produce than scripted titles, allowing broadcasters and streaming services to produce similar volumes of titles but at a lower cost.”

Speaking about the ongoing war, Walsh argued that the media sector has limited direct exposure to Russia and Ukraine. “The two countries account for about 1% of global media revenue. For Western media companies, the direct impacts of the crisis are limited in scale, with Western media operations in Russia or Ukraine rarely a priority,” she concluded.

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