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TV broadcasters and SVoD platforms demand more high-end series but with fewer episodes, the latest EAO report reveals

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- On average, Europe produced over 1,100 titles, 22,000 episodes and 14,000 hours of fiction each year between 2015 and 2021

TV broadcasters and SVoD platforms demand more high-end series but with fewer episodes, the latest EAO report reveals
Baltasar Kormákur's Trapped, one of the most successful series in the 2015-2021 period

Last week, the European Audiovisual Observatory (EAO) published a new report titled “Audiovisual Fiction Production in Europe - 2021 Figures”. The study, authored by Gilles Fontaine, focuses on the volume of TV/SVoD fiction films and series “produced in Europe, and of European origin according to main acting roles, the main commissioners and producers, and the crews of screenwriters and directors involved in their creation”.

The data covers the period between 2015 and 2021 and was mainly provided by the European Metadata Group, along with other sources such as IMDb and the EAO’s LUMIERE database.

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On average, Europe produced over 1,100 titles, 22,000 episodes and 14,000 hours of fiction each year between 2015 and 2021. Predictably, however, the 2020/2021 healthcare crisis halted the growth of production and release of original TV fiction, as “the volume of hours produced was still in 2021 slightly below its 2019 level.” 

Meanwhile, “the number of 13-or-fewer-episode-per-season series kept on growing throughout the crisis,” even though this growth “did not translate into volume of hours as seasons had fewer and shorter episodes.” The report argues this strategy might have been the result of the increase in budgets. After the last few critical years, the production of TV films only rebounded in 2022.

That being said, the study states that “COVID-19 did not affect some of the fundamental characteristics of TV production in Europe.” In detail, “telenovelas and soaps still account for the bulk (61%) of hours produced,” and “more than half of all titles produced are 13-or-fewer-episodes-per-season series.”

In terms of geographical differences, the report defines Germany, Poland and Greece as the leaders in volume of telenovelas and soaps produced, and labels Hungary and Portugal as “two other examples of countries driven by more-than-52-episode-per-season series.” 

Moreover, Germany produces the highest number of different titles, in particular with an above average focus on TV films. 

The UK, ahead of Germany, France, Spain and Sweden, focuses on shorter seasons made up of 13 episodes or less.

Interestingly, after the peak recorded in 2018, the report finds that now international co-productions only account for 8% of all fiction titles and “are mostly limited to TV films and to 2-to-3-episode-season series.”

Previously, most of the co-productions “used to be between two neighbouring countries sharing the same language.” To date, “non-linguistic co-productions have gradually increased and represent close to 60% of all co-productions.” These “non-linguistic co-productions” are now driven by the United Kingdom, Germany and joint projects between two or more Scandinavian countries. 

In terms of commissioners, public broadcasters account for 55% of titles, whilst private broadcasters for 59% of hours. Global streamers released a total of 115 original European series in 2021 (+3 on 2020 figures, with 75% of these being commissioned by Netflix). Along with Netflix, the BBC and Warner Bros Discovery were the other two main commissioners of 13-or-fewer-episode-per season series. 

Furthermore, the production groups and outfits involved contribute to a huge turnover. The study shows that “almost 1,400 production companies/groups produced at least one fiction title between 2015 and 2021, but only 6% of them produced at least one title in each of the last seven years.” The main reason behind this huge turnover is “the intense renewal of TV series.”

In 2021, independent productions accounted for 78% of all titles produced, with 12% from production groups affiliated with a broadcaster but working for a third-party broadcaster and 66% from production groups independent from any major broadcaster. The figures also reveal that Banijay, the MediawanLeonine Alliance and the RTL group were the three main producers of independent TV fiction.

Speaking of manpower, about 13,000 screenwriters were involved in the production of TV fiction between 2015 and 2021. Excluding more-than-52-episode-season series, each screenwriter (co)wrote 1.9 episodes per year. The sector also involved some 7,000 directors, who (co-)directed an average of two episodes per year each. 58% of them were also at the helm of a fiction feature.

The full document can be accessed here.

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