British TV Under “Serious Threat” From Netflix And Other Streaming Giants, BBC Chief Warns


The meteoric rise of Netflix and other digital giants has placed a strain on British-made television.

Series like Broadchurch and Sherlock are said to be under “serious threat” from big-name digital competitors (read: Apple, Amazon), not to mention a sizeable drop in advertising revenues. Tony Hall, director general of the BBC, warns that money spent on creating and launching TV content could fall by £500 million a year over the next decade, which equates to around 20 percent of the current spending on British-made television.

Ahead of his planned speech on Thursday, Hall delivered this stark warning to The Guardian, noting that a decline of this magnitude could negatively impact the quality and breadth of British television, in which case creators would essentially be working from a smaller pool of resources.

We have to face the reality that the British content we value and rely upon is under serious threat. The reality is that [new TV outlets’] investment decisions are likely to focus increasingly on a narrow range of very expensive, very high-end content — big bankers that they can rely on to have international appeal and attract large, global audiences. Even the most generous calculations suggest they are barely likely to make up half of the £500m British content gap over the decade ahead. And a more realistic forecast points to substantially less.

As The Guardian notes, the most-watched programs on British TV were all made in the country, including One Love Manchester, the concert designed to honor the victims of the Manchester bombing, Broadchurch, Britain’s Got Talent, Sherlock and Strictly Come Dancing.

But it’s not all doom and gloom; so long as the BBC acts swiftly, Tony Hall believes the public service broadcaster can avert a potential funding disaster:

The BBC has always shown a great ability to adapt to new challenges and make them opportunities. If we get the response right now, and the rest of the industry does the same, then we can safeguard the future of homegrown content and, rather than British content diminishing, we can kickstart a new golden age for British production.

Netflix’s long-lasting effects on British television have been well documented, but this is a potentially troubling wrinkle to the saga. The online streamer, much like its competitors, tends to cast the net in search of international hits, and recently invested a reported £100 million in The Crown.

As for the immediate future of British-made television, we’ll be keeping you right up-to-date on Hall’s admittedly grim forecast, and how it may affect some of your favorites – Sherlock included.