Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The cost of TV drama

With ITV announcing the dropping of Primeval and Demons last week, in The Guardian, Stephen Armstrong looks at the cost pressures facing the TV networks.
Despite ITV performing well in drama this year - it has broadcast the five highest-rating new dramas, Whitechapel, Above Suspicion, Unforgiven, Law & Order: UK and, ironically, Demons - rating success is clearly no longer a measure of survival at the broadcaster. But if ITV is getting rid of relative successes, what will it have left?
Armstrong says that ITV's top rate for primetime drama is now £700k an hour, while the BBC will spend around £400k per hour for BBC3 and BBC4 and £900,000 for BBC1. In America, by contrast, networks will spend up to $5m per hour (about £3.6m at current exchange rates)
"You need to develop the show with budget restrictions in mind from the very beginning - smaller cast, fewer locations - you have to think like a sitcom," says Robert Cooper, the co-founder of Great Meadows, the indie behind Margaret Thatcher - The Long Walk To Finchley. "Then you spread the cost with co-producers - which can be a problem as the British audience can smell a Europudding at 100 paces.

"So far we are on the edge of it having a cultural effect," Cooper believes. "If it does start limiting the subject matter and ambition of TV drama makers then I think we are in trouble. We're looking at a book adaptation, for instance, and that has certain creative demands you simply can't avoid. It may be that TV versions of books are no longer possible."

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