European programmes dominate EU TV market

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European works make up three quarters of peak television viewing time in the EU, according to a new study published yesterday (28 May), refuting the widely-held view that American programmes are the most popular.

European programmes and films represent 74% of viewing time, 33.4% of which was devoted to independent European productions, found the independent study, carried out on behalf of the European Commission. 

EU law requires European channels to devote “the majority” of their programming time to European works (see ‘Background’). 

European works dominant… 

Indeed, “most European broadcasters among those analysed met the 50% requirement” for European works, found the report. 

Public broadcasters “offer, on average, higher proportions of European qualifying hours (78%) than private channels (54.1%), both during all-day and specifically during peak-time,” the study found. 

This is because “their ‘public service’ status makes them natural flagships for the promotion of national culture and the protection of audiovisual heritage, and more open to European works in general,” it concluded. 

Among the well-known channels failing to make the 50% threshold are Five and Sky One in the UK, Canal+ in Poland and RTL-TVI in French-speaking Belgium. 

The findings, based on 2007 figures for 30 European countries, prove that “independent European programmes and films are very popular,” argued the Commission. 

…but American content popular 

“Almost all European broadcasters acquire popular US programming (both TV series and Hollywood movies,” but uptake of South East Asian content is growing, the study found. 

As for European exports, the report concluded that although sales were improving, “only a small number of countries […] have successfully managed to exploit formats on a global scale”. 

Eleven of the fourteen most successful European exports to the United States are from the UK, including The OfficeDancing with the Stars and Hell’s Kitchen

American works make up 56% of European TV channels’ expenditure on programme acquisition, compared with just 3% from another EU country. 23% of total acquisition spending goes on programmes from outside Europe and the US, compared with 14% on domestic productions. 

European programming rules video-on-demand 

Video-on-demand offered by TV channels feature “almost exclusively European content,” the survey found, with over 90% of those featured in the study declaring that European content made up over three-quarters of their on-demand listing. 

This stands in marked contrast to independent video-on-demand services, a quarter of which offer less than 25% of European works in their programming. 

The findings led the Commission to conclude that “it is […] important to monitor the development of video-on-demand available in the EU in order to support the promotion of culturally-diversified content”. 

The vast majority of video-on-demand is archived footage or repeats. 

Welcoming viewers' interest in European works, European Commission Vice-President Jacques Barrot - responsible for information society and media in the absence of Viviane Reding, who is campaigning for election in June's EU poll – said the study "demonstrates that European diversity, promoted by the European Union's audiovisual policy, is a value shared by the cast majority of Europeans". 

Nevertheless, the commissioner expressed his conviction that "we can do better and […] the broadcasting of our works can be further increased". 

"In particular, we must utilise the potential of on-demand services in order to promote local and European content throughout Europe, thereby furthering cultural diversity and independent production," Barrot said. 

The study published yesterday was carried out by Attentional Limited, Oliver & Ohlbaum Associés, Ramboll Management and Headway International on behalf of the European Commission. 

2007's Audiovisual Media Services Directive, which replaced 1989's 'Television Without Frontiers' Directive, requires European channels to devote "the majority" of their programming time to European works and "at least 10% of that time or of their programming budgets" to independent European productions. 

EU law also requires member states to ensure that providers of on-demand visual media services promote the production of and access to European works. 

Another survey released earlier this month had found that a record number of films were produced in the EU last year and that admissions to European films remained strong (EURACTIV 12/05/09). 


  • Dec. 2009

    : Deadline for national implementation of the Audiovisual Media Services Directive.   

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