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U.K. Production Bounces Back to Record High, TV Spend Doubling Since 2019

High end TV production — led by shows such as 'House of the Dragon' and 'Bridgerton' — reached $5.47 billion in the first four quarters since coming out of lockdown in 2020, well more than double the spend for the whole of 2019.

The U.K.’s film and TV production boom, which began years before the pandemic but has shot out of the blocks since coming out of lockdown in mid 2020, has been quantified, with figures showing that television has been spearheading an extraordinary rate of growth.

According to the British Film Institute, for the rolling year October 2020-September 2021 — the first four quarters since production restarted — combined spend on high-end TV and film reached £5.94 billion ($7.86 billion), more than 25 percent higher than the £4.7 billion spent in 2019, then a record.

Leading the pack was high-end TV, which hit an astonishing £4.14 billion ($5.47 billion), well more than double 2019’s level of £1.66 billion. Big-budget shows such as House of the Dragon, Star Wars: Andor, Bridgerton, Sex Education, Gangs of London and His Dark Materials are among those to have helped push this figure to such high levels. Q2 alone was £2.25 billion ($2.98 billion), the biggest quarter ever for high-end TV.

For film, spend over the same period reached £1.8 billion ($2.38 billion), just shy of the £1.96 billion spent during 2019, which was then the second-highest level on record. Indiana Jones 5, Mission: Impossible 7, The Little Mermaid and Ant-Man 3 are among the big Hollywood titles that have recently been shooting in the U.K.

The numbers were revealed at the same time the BFI unveiled a new report, entitled Screen Business, looking at the impact of the U.K.’s much-imitated tax relief incentive system for the years 2017-19.

According to the report, the U.K. tax incentives schemes across film, high-end TV, video games, children’s TV and animation incentivized record levels of production in the U.K, generating £13.48 billion ($17.82 billion) in 2019, increasingly by 23.7 percent over three years and up by 56 percent since 2016.

The reliefs have also, according to the report, been behind a record increase in employment across the sectors, rising 20 percent between 2017 and 2019 to 219,000 full-time employees within the U.K., up by 45 percent since 2016.

Furthermore, the boom sparked by the incentives has resulted in a rush in studios being constructed to meet the growing demand. The Screen Business report detailed an estimated £131.6 billion ($174.5 million) spent on building or expanding U.K. studios between 2017 and 2019, with a further £785.4 million ($1.04 billion) for developments that had received planning permission by the end of 2020.

“We work with industry and government to build the U.K. screen sector, and Screen Business is evidence of the strength of the tax reliefs and how they have supported a staggering level of production and jobs, and built business across the U.K.’s nations and regions,” said BFI chief executive Ben Roberts.

“It’s a testament to this strength that our screen industries have bounced back faster than almost any other industry post pandemic. As we look to the future we need to ensure that we stay on top of our game — by building the skilled workforce this level of production critically needs and increasing investment in areas across the U.K. where there are opportunities for growth and innovation.”

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