In The Frame April '20
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In The Frame April '20

This month's latest news across the industry.

Streaming/Online/Tech

Not surprisingly, SVOD has emerged as a big winner of the Covid-19 lockdown, with Netflix, Disney+, ITV Hub, All 4 and Sky reporting a surge in use.

Netflix added 15.8 million subscribers in the first three months of the year, far exceeding its target of seven million new customers. The company suggested, however, that the boost in subscribers and viewership were temporary. Disney+, meanwhile, has amassed more than 50 million subscribers, representing an increase of more than 22 million since the company’s previous figures were disclosed in early February.

The UK’s domestic TV broadcasters have also reported increased demand for their streaming services. ITV Hub viewing has surged year on year, achieving an uplift in both reach (a 40 per cent increase) and consumption (82 per cent growth), while Channel 4 have reported the highest number of quarterly views ever for its All 4 service across the first three months of 2020. All 4 launched as 4oD in November 2006. Sky has reported a “boxset effect”, given the 26 per cent increase in series downloads. Ad revenues are down, however: Channel 4 has forecast that the TV ad market will fall by more than 50 per cent across April and May.

The boost in viewer numbers is not restricted to the big, legitimate players, however. UK traffic to film and TV piracy sites is also on the up. Visits to film sites jumped by 57 per cent in the last week of March compared with the last week of February, and traffic to sites illegally showing TV content was up by 29 per cent during the same period.

The lockdown offers an opportunity for scammers, too. More than 700 malicious Netflix and Disney+ clones, used to scrape personal data, have been identified. Victims are either losing money via fake subscription sites, or their credit card data and login credentials are collected for use at a later date.

Soon joining the competing SVOD services will be WarnerMedia’s HBO Max, which launches in the US on 27 May. Localised programming is expected next year.

BBC News

iPlayer use has also increased during the coronavirus lockdown. More than 20 million programmes were streamed in a single day for the first time last month. A record 20.4 million requests on Monday 23 March made it iPlayer’s most popular day ever.

But the pandemic’s negative impact deepens. The corporation’s outgoing director general, Tony Hall, has reportedly told staff that pay rises, recruitment and major projects are likely to be affected this year. A predicted drop in the BBC’s income of £125 million is expected as commercial revenue falls and people stop paying the licence fee.

The BBC has announced a package of measures to support the independent production sector during the pandemic, with a focus on companies who are most vulnerable. “The measures announced will provide investment in purposeful activity and enable production companies to continue a pipeline of quality ideas and programmes, in both the short and long term,” the BBC said.

Proposals to aid TV production are being considered by the BBC. One option is “quarantining actors and crew in order to allow actors to interact in the same space,” according to Piers Wenger, head of BBC drama commissioning, as he addressed a virtual session of the Edinburgh television festival.

And finally...

  • A survey of almost 1,000 TV freelancers in the UK has found that just more than half will seek work in an industry that “offers more stability” if jobs remain thin on the ground until June.
  • ITV has created a £500,000 development fund targeted at the independent sector to help producers during the crisis…
  • …and Sky is donating the same amount to the new Covid-19 Film and TV Emergency Relief Fund. The money will go directly to eligible workers and freelancers across film, TV and cinema. One-off grants of between £500 and £2,500 will be awarded based on need.
  • The BFI Covid-19 Production Continuation Fund has also been launched. Using £2 million of National Lottery money, the fund will remain open until 27 May 2020 and award up to £150,000 for UK independent productions in critical financial need as a result of the pandemic.
  • Nearly 500 leading UK creatives have urged the government to provide further financial support during the crisis. Research has found that half of creative sector organisations’ cash reserves could have run dry by June.
  • Ofcom has imposed a sanction on broadcaster ESTV after an interview which the regulator judged contained potentially harmful content. Ofcom also criticised ITV presenter Eamonn Holmes for comments it described as “ambiguous” and “ill-judged”, and that risked undermining viewers’ trust in advice from public authorities and scientific evidence.
  • The BBC has launched a new Galton & Simpson Bursary for Comedy Writing, aimed at helping a new comedy writer or writing partnership to build their career.

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