High-end scripted content to face production delays for at least 12 months | Media Analysis | Business
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Research from Ampere Analysis has revealed that producers of high-end scripted content will face Covid-related delays for far longer than their unscripted counterparts leading to questions as to how producers of linear TV’s most popular content can meet consumer demand for recent, relevant and local content.

ampere 17Sep20The bottom line prediction in the research is that producers of new scripted content—which typically spends an average of 11 months in production—will be battling against Covid-related delays well into 2021. Ampere compared this situation with unscripted content, which spends an average of just two months in production, and whose producers have been able to adapt production to the new circumstances, already overcoming the worst period of delays.

What this has meant says the research is that unscripted commissions have increased from 66% in Q2 2019 to 72% in Q2 2020, compensating for the lack of new high-quality scripted content. Reality shows have been the key beneficiary, with 24% more titles commissioned in Q2 2020 than in Q2 2019. The temporary stop in production also forced programmers to air older and less popular content to fill gaps, and some have turned to unscripted material to pad their schedules.

Even though the proportion of new content aired dropped steadily over Q1 and Q2 2020, the research found that unscripted content has already made a rapid recovery, with new titles representing a higher proportion of primetime series than before Covid-19. However, Ampere noted that the proportion of new scripted primetime shows has yet to return to pre-Covid levels. With unscripted content plugging gaps in the short-term, the study found that linear viewers in the US and UK rated comedy, crime and thriller, sport, drama and sci-fi and fantasy as their top five genres in Q1 and Q2 2020 – the same period that saw a considerable decrease in the proportion of new titles aired for all five genres.

By contrast, Ampere said that by mid-September 2020 almost half of all scripted commissions from the first half of 2019 had yet to be released, highlighting the long production periods for scripted shows, and the impact of exposure to the Covid-linked production hiatus. As a consequence, delays for scripted titles ordered in the same period in 2020, also exposed to the production shutdown, will likely run well into 2021.

Going forward, the analyst said that the production of some scripted genres like drama and romance can often be expedited, the ability to shorten the often lengthy post-production process for genres such as action and adventure, sci-fi and fantasy and horror —while maintaining output quality—will be key to limiting the onward impact of the pandemic.

“Linear programmers know that viewers won’t accept poor quality content and repeats indefinitely, and they will lose consumers to both broadcast and on-demand competitors if they don’t address the situation fast,” said Ampere Analysis analyst Olivia Deane.

“This is particularly problematic for channels that offer a high proportion of original scripted content. To maintain a competitive edge, they will need to adjust their acquisition models to compete in the race to broadcast new, high-quality content. This suggests a time to shine for independent studios with scripted projects already in the pipeline. However, with indies facing their own delays, it’s likely that supply will be outweighed by demand for the foreseeable future.”