Culture Matters:

The U.K.’s Creative Industry Faces “A Point of Jeopardy” as Streaming Gains Ground

by | Mar 19, 2021

It has been a year since citizens of the world were asked to shelter in place to keep family, friends, and neighbors safe. With everyone staying home, the entertainment industry has had to adapt and evolve. People who would normally go out for dinner and a movie on a Friday night have whipped up new recipes at home and hit play on the latest Amazon Prime or Netflix original movie. This brought many broadcasters face to face with the “existential threat” of streaming.

According to Variety, the latest virtual Deloitte and Enders Media and Telecoms conference hosted many people from the U.K.’s technology, media, and telecom sectors. They highlighted how, before the pandemic, the “creative industry was going through a period of phenomenal growth” but in the year since is confronting “a point of jeopardy.”

Tim Davie, director of the BBC, told Variety that the creative industry is “a brilliant British success story and it needs fueling and [investment].”

“The government are proactive on this,” he continued, “which is a situation in which we can ensure that there’s the right prominence in new environments for public service broadcasters. That is critical. It protects local creative work.”

Carolyn McCall, CEO of ITV, told Eminetra the public service broadcasts (PSBs) need “fair competition for it to work.” With streaming companies taking increasingly more users away from standard broadcasting and cable providers, “a broadcaster that provides public goods … will be dramatically eroded.”

Everyone likes to see local talent and fan favorites on TV; Alex Mahon, chief executive of Channel 4, surveyed viewers and found that “viewers see them as being more responsive to their experiences and to their lives …. helping them to view the U.K. and the world from the inside of the U.K., taking the familiar and sharing it through a new lens, as opposed to the exports who are looking from the outside in, often showing us people that we enjoy watching, but that we can in no way relate to.”

But even with such positive feedback, in the face of Big Tech and streaming platforms, it may be time for PSBs to band together to save themselves.

“It’s critical we collaborate,” said Davie, “The truth is we’ve always come together and created things that have had real value. We need to be working together and creating scale together in the new world. In areas like platform, we’ve got to think about what’s the future of open platforms. And, finally, I think we stand together in areas like prominence. There is a question for us as a community, as a culture, as the U.K., which is what kind of media market do we want? And we’ve always made those choices.”

Even with “niche streaming services” like Britbox, Freesat, and Freeview, local channels will fade away to make room for their competitors if they do not do something to increase viability. Coming together in collaboration could ensure that they keep the essential elements of public service broadcasting in an age where content is just a click away.