China Tops U.K. in TV Content Production, Trailing the U.S.

China has overtaken the United Kingdom in television programming production, becoming the second-largest market in the world after the United States, according to new data from IHS Markit.

TV programming expenditures in China, including online platforms, hit 73 billion yuan ($10.9 billion) in 2017, followed by the U.K. at $10 billion, while the U.S. led spending with $58.3 billion.

“The growth in China’s TV programming spending is largely due to aggressive content investment by online companies Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent,” Kia Ling, senior research analyst at IHS Markit, said in a statement. “These three giants have upped their spending on content origination and acquisition for their respective video platforms iQiyi, Youku Tudou and Tencent Video.”

Broadcaster advertising revenue growth in China plateaued in 2017, reaching 83 billion yuan ($12.3 billion), but online revenue is on the rise, driven by greater video advertising and subscription income. TV broadcasters spent 43 billion yuan ($6.4 billion) on programming in 2017, compared to 30 billion yuan ($4.5 billion) spent by online platform companies.

“As digital entertainment viewership gains traction, advertisers are gradually moving more of their budgets to digital platforms,” Teoh said. “We expect online companies to overtake TV broadcaster spending in 2018, if the content creation spree persists.”

Original programming made up 49% of all Chinese programming in 2017, followed by acquired programming at 46%, and sports programming at 5%.

IHS Markit expects this split to remain relatively consistent over the next five years.

“Broadcasters and online platform companies are increasingly creating their own content, not only to lure paying subscribers, but also for merchandising, mobile game development and other new revenue streams,” said Teoh. “In addition, distribution of linear TV and online platform content can generate lucrative returns, in both domestic and foreign markets.”

Despite the increased focus on original programming in China, acquired content will remain an integral part of broadcasters’ content strategy, as many companies still rely heavily on acquired content. The large and growing consumer appetite for global sporting events, particularly online, is also expected to boost spending on sports programming.

“While online platform companies are increasing China’s TV programming expenditure, they should be concerned by user retention and sustainability of content costs,” added Teoh. “In order to retain existing subscribers and attract new ones, online platform companies are investing heavily to create and acquire exclusive content. Unlike Netflix, these companies still rely substantially on advertising and sponsorship. If the cost of content continues to surge, such aggressive investment will become unsustainable.”

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