TV

British TV industry is getting richer and the US is its biggest market

What do all these shows — “Downton Abbey,” “Sherlock”, “Dr. Who”, “Black Mirror” and “The Crown” — have in common? For one, these have been highly profitable shows in the past, as well as some that are still in demand right now.

But more importantly, all these TV giants are British.

In the past few decades, British television has been on the rise. While the United States remains the biggest and perhaps one of the most successful and universally marketed television industries, the British industry is not far behind. What’s ironic is that British television’s largest overseas market is, in fact, the U.S.

British television exports to North America, Australia and France have risen by 10 percent in the past few years, taking the revenue up to $1.66 billion, according to Variety.

British TV shows have been highly successful in foreign markets, and we can thank the golden age of streaming for this substantial rise in revenue. U.S. based streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Video are some of the biggest buyers of British shows. But that’s not the only thing that is boosting this industry to a whole new level. This is where the magnificence of the BBC comes in.

For British shows not owned by streaming services, the BBC holds the monopoly in public television and other forms of broadcast entertainment, including radio, news and the internet. And the BBC isn’t confined to the U.K., either. With regional branches all over the world, this network has been promoting British television to the majority of the world, something that American television had not thought of until the concept of streaming online was conceived.

But this doesn’t entirely explain the popularity of British TV shows in the U.S. What I want to know is what makes British TV so desirable to overseas audiences, because it can’t be just the accent. Now I know I am no historian, but there’s no harm in talking like one.

Let’s go back to where it all started. “Skins” enthusiasts would pinpoint the mid-2000s as the time demand for British shows grew. Shows like “EastEnders” and “Absolutely Fabulous” garnered a large American audience. This was before reality television came into the picture and Simon Cowell spread his malicious genius to the U.S. in the form of “American Idol” and “The X Factor.”

In the footsteps of Cowell’s brainchildren were American remakes of highly popular British shows such as Ricky Gervais’s “The Office” and “The Inbetweeners” — the latter being something the British and the Americans choose not to talk about. After the dawn of the new decade, the British dominated — and are still at their best — in genres such as sci-fi and historical fiction. I mean, “Doctor Who” will still probably be running even after the class of 2020 retires.

As for historical fiction, Britain is spewing out shows about every possible historically relevant family in the U.K. as well as the rest of Europe. Although “Game of Thrones” is the biggest contender of the all things royal and sexual, shows like “The Tudors” add the right amount of monarchical drama that American history lacked. Plus, after a quick google search, you find out that in spite of having half of the British film industry employed as actors in the show,
“Game of Thrones” is produced in the United States.

Now, it’s time to wait and watch as Netflix and HBO compete to become the next BBC.

Malvika Randive is a freshman majoring in Writing and Rhetoric. Her column appears weekly in Pulp. She can be reached at mnrandiv@syr.edu.

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