Not bad for a small island that no one listens to: British TV exports hit £1.2bn

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Homegrown programmes enjoy sales boom as audiences in China and East Europe tune into Downton Abbey

Sales of British television programmes to China have soared by 90 per cent after Beijing became hooked on Downton Abbey's depiction of the English class structure.

The latest annual Television Exports Survey shows that sales to international markets grew to £1.22bn during 2012.

Whilst the US remains the UK’s most lucrative market, with sales up 11 per cent, the survey by the producers’ association, Pact, found that revenues from sales to China have almost doubled to £12m.

China is currently importing a British cultural revolution, led by Downton Abbey, which plays to 160 million viewers. An aspirational Chinese audience has become fascinated with the programme’s depiction of British manners in the Edwardian era.

A young, educated Shanghai crowd reportedly “went berserk” at a British Council event to encourage cultural links when they were shown an image of Dame Maggie Smith as the Dowager Countess of Grantham.

BBC dramas such as Sherlock are streamed over the internet by millions of Chinese viewers every month. This result is a cultural, “soft power” benefit for British diplomacy equal to the Armed Forces, according to Tony Hall, the BBC Director General.

Meanwhile, Chinese businesses believe they have much to learn from the “back-to-the-floor” series Undercover Boss. A local version of the Channel 4 series will be produced after its UK producers, All3Media, struck a deal with Dragon TV, part of the Shanghai Media Group.

Florian Fettweis, consulting director at CMM-I, a media consultancy which brokered the deal, said the Chinese Undercover Boss had the potential to “open up a new formats era in China”.

Across south-east Asia, UK television sales are up 26 per cent and the market in India, the latest country to sign up for a local version of Come Dine With Me, has grown by 42 per cent.

The market in Europe is growing too. Whilst British viewers are in thrall to Danish dramas, DR – the Danish channel behind The Killing – has bought Hinterland, a new Welsh/English language “noir” detective series produced by Welsh broadcaster S4C.

But while China is now the fastest-growing source of international business for producers and distributors, the figures are still dwarfed by American buyers – who spent £475m on UK content in 2012.

Downton Abbey again leads the way, with PBS, the cable network which screens the show, reporting that the final episode of the third series was watched by 8.2 million viewers.

Mr Selfridge, another ITV period drama, starring Jeremy Piven, is following in Downton’s wake. At the Mipcom international market in Cannes, ITV Studios confirmed new deals to screen the show in Spain and Central and Eastern Europe, taking its sales to more than 150 countries worldwide.

The total UK programme sales of £1.22bn, up 4 per cent from last year’s £1.18bn, includes a 51 per cent increase in digital sales.

The popularity of UK television has also seen global co-productions rise by 60 per cent with British producers cutting deals with international broadcasters to produce drama, factual and children’s programming.

The BBC series Parade’s End, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, is typical of the complex deals required to produce high-end drama. It was produced by the UK company Mammoth Screen in association with HBO Miniseries, BBC Worldwide, Trademark Films and Lookout Point, then co-produced with BNP Paribas Fortis Film Fund and Anchorage Entertainment, and filmed with the support of the Belgian federal government’s Tax Shelter scheme.

Pact’s figures show that the growth in international sales of UK television programmes has almost quadrupled since 2004. John McVay, chief executive of Pact, said: “The dramatic increase in sales to China is surely a sign of major developments to come. TV producers in the UK are innovative – they have established the sector among the most successful and influential of the UK’s creative industries.”

Meanwhile, Paul Dempsey, from BBC Worldwide, said: “In Asia, we are seeing strong demand for UK content in countries where we simply haven’t experienced it before.”

Hit parade: The shows going global

Midsomer Murders

First aired in 1997 and sold internationally to 225 territories, it is German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s favourite programme and the most popular series in Denmark, where a joint UK/Danish episode is in production.

Downton Abbey

The series is a hit in Sweden, Russia, South Korea, the Middle East and other places “where viewers wouldn’t know a dowager from a dogsbody,” in the words of the New York Times.

Parade’s End

The epic wartime period drama was bought by French broadcaster ARTE before screening and licensed to 17 central and Eastern European countries including Slovenia, Latvia and Estonia in “package deals”.

Come Dine With Me

The most successful global format for ITV Studios, which has sold local versions of the dinner party show to 36 territories with India latest to succumb. Serbia asked ITV to produce 155 episodes.

Undercover Boss

The Channel 4 show is broadcast in more than 200 territories but the show has also been licensed as a “local format” to 20 countries including the US, Canada, Denmark and France.

Broadchurch

David Tennant will adopt a US accent when he reprises his detective role in the Fox remake of the hit ITV murder investigation drama.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Gothic revival: artist Dave McKean’s poster for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
Exhibition
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard has left the Great British Bake Off 2014

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live

TV
Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

music
Arts and Entertainment
Suha Arraf’s film ‘Villa Touma’ (left) is set in Ramallah and all the actresses are Palestinian

film
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Carell in the poster for new film 'Foxcatcher'
filmExclusive: First look at comic actor in first major serious role
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Kingston Road in Stockton is being filmed for the second series of Benefits Street
arts + entsFilming for Channel 4 has begun despite local complaints
Arts and Entertainment
Led Zeppelin

music
Arts and Entertainment
Radio presenter Scott Mills will be hitting the Strictly Come Dancing ballroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce performs in front of a Feminist sign at the MTV VMAs 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has taken home the prize for Video of the Year at the MTV Video Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Paige and Scott Lowell in Queer as Folk (Season 5)
tvA batch of shows that 'wouldn't get past a US network' could give tofu sales an unexpected lift
Arts and Entertainment
books... but seller will be hoping for more
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

    The phoney war is over

    Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
    From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

    Salomé: A head for seduction

    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
    From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

    British Library celebrates all things Gothic

    Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
    The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

    Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

    The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

    In search of Caribbean soul food

    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
    11 best face powders

    11 best face powders

    Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
    England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
    Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone