Per­form­ing Arts

The strength and qual­ity of Bri­tish ex­ports means that, wher­ever you are, tele­vi­sion may look fa­mil­iar, re­ports Jane Watkins

Country Life Every Week - - Contents - Edited by Jane Watkins

Bri­tish TV trans­lates, says Jane Watkins

ON a re­cent hol­i­day in Nor­way, we flipped through the chan­nels on the ho­tel TV to find something to while away an hour or so. Our lan­guage skills not much be­ing up to the chal­lenge, we wor­ried whether we would find something we could un­der­stand. We needn’t have wor­ried: two sep­a­rate chan­nels were show­ing re­peats of Mid­somer Mur­ders in English with Nor­we­gian sub­ti­tles. Ev­ery night at 9pm. Not only did my Nor­we­gian grow, but so did my ap­pre­ci­a­tion for how widely Bri­tish tele­vi­sion trav­els.

In 2014/15, tele­vi­sion ex­ports brought £1.207 bil­lion into the econ­omy, down slightly from a high of £1.284 bil­lion in 2013/14 from both the sale of tele­vi­sion shows and the sale of for­mats of hits such as The Great Bri­tish Bake Off (sold to coun­tries such as Aus­tria, Poland, Bel­gium, Ire­land, Den­mark and the USA), Come Dine With Me (36 ter­ri­to­ries, in­clud­ing In­dia and Ser­bia) and Who Wants to Be a Mil­lion­aire? (107 ter­ri­to­ries, in­clud­ing Al­ge­ria, In­done­sia, San Marino and Equador).

I shouldn’t have been so sur­prised to see Mid­somer in Nor­way as it’s a hit in more than 225 ter­ri­to­ries around the world, es­p­cially in Scan­di­navia. For the show’s 100th episode, the story was partly filmed in Den­mark and fea­tured cameos from The Killing’s Marie Aske­have and Ni­co­laj Kopernikus and Bor­gen’s Bir­gitte Hjort Sørensen. Ac­cord­ing to the se­ries’s star Neil Dud­geon: ‘Ann Eleanora Jør­gensen—who played the mother in se­ries one of The Killing— said when she told her fam­ily “I’m do­ing this thing called The Killing,” no­body was very in­ter­ested. As soon as she said “I’m do­ing an episode of Mid­somer Mur­ders”, they begged her “Can you get us pic­tures?”.’

He adds: ‘In a pop­u­la­tion of just 5.5 mil­lion, they’ve sold about four mil­lion Mid­somer DVDS. Something like 80% of house­holds have at least one DVD and it airs in a prime­time Satur­daynight slot.’ It’s ruled this slot for the se­ries’s en­tire run, with an en­vi­able 30%– 40% share of the au­di­ence. All this means that Den­mark is the third big­gest ter­ri­tory for Bri­tish ex­ports after the USA and Swe­den, with Ger­many and Nor­way com­plet­ing the top five.

How­ever, a bur­geon­ing mid­dle class is driv­ing sales to China (up 90%), In­dia (up 42%) Mex­ico (up 46%) and Brazil (up 30%). Sales to Sub- Sa­ha­ran Africa are up more than a third thanks to im­proved in­fra­struc­ture.

But what are the big­gest hits world­wide? Un­sur­pris­ingly, Sher- lock does enor­mously well, es­pe­cially in Rus­sia and China —when the third sea­son was streamed on Youku.com, it got five mil­lion hits in 24 hours and 72 mil­lion hits so far. Peppa Pig has been sold to 170 ter­ri­to­ries and is on course to make £1 bil­lion. Heart­beat is still hugely pop­u­lar in Fin­land and Down­ton Abbey has been sold to 250 ter­ri­to­ries, gar­ner­ing more than 160 mil­lion view­ers.

Although America has been known for the qual­ity of its dra­mas in re­cent years, it can’t

touch us for our fac­tual and fac­tual en­ter­tain­ment pro­grammes. Top Gear is the most watched fac­tual pro­gramme in the world, with a global au­di­ence of more than 350 mil­lion. Gen­er­ally, when a ter­ri­tory buys a show, it re­makes it us­ing lo­cal pre­sen­ters and el­e­ments, but, with Top Gear, it was the orig­i­nal that was bought and aired. It’s too early to say how the re­vamp will af­fect sales.

How­ever, if you look at the num­ber of oc­ca­sions on which a pro­gramme is sold, Top Gear’s 282—in­clud­ing to Al­ba­nia, China, Ice­land and Iran—puts it way down the race. The first se­ries of the re­booted Doc­tor Who, with Christo­pher Ec­cle­ston, did rather bet­ter with 629 oc­ca­sions (although the show hasn’t been a hit in Fin­land, Turkey is the fourth big­gest au­di­ence in the world for Doc­tor Who).

But can you guess what’s num­ber one? Life of Mam­mals? No, but its 958 oc­ca­sions make it a very re­spectable sec­ond.at num­ber one, with 992 sales, in­clud­ing re­cent pur­chases by Bul­garia, Latvia and Den­mark, the BBC com­edy Keep­ing Up Ap­pear­ances is a sur­pris­ing run­away champ. No won­der the BBC has high hopes for Young Hy­acinth, which fol­lows the future Mrs Bucket’s mis­ad­ven­tures as a teenager in the late 1950s. Writ­ten by the show’s cre­ator Roy Clarke, the one-off will be shown later in the sum­mer as part of a sea­son cel­e­brat­ing Bri­tish com­edy.

Any­one wor­ry­ing about how ef­fec­tively our shows can crack the big­gest mar­ket in the world need only look at the re­cently an­nounced Emmy nom­i­na­tions. Bri­tish ac­tors, ac­tors, writ­ers and shows all fea­ture promi­nently, with recog­ni­tion for The Night Man­ager (for the show and for Tom Hid­dle­ston, Hugh Lau­rie and Olivia Col­man), Sher­lock: The Abom­inable Bride (in­clud­ing Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch) and Luther (in­clud­ing Idris Elba). Act­ing nom­i­na­tions also go to Matthew Rhys, Kit Har­ing­ton, Maisie Williams and Dame Maggie Smith. Down­ton Abbey’s fi­nal sea­son is nom­i­nated for out­stand­ing drama se­ries and Ju­lian Fel­lows has been recog­nised for his writ­ing.

So next time you’re away, switch on the tele­vi­sion—it might look more fa­mil­iar than you were ex­pect­ing.

Will the team changes af­fect Top Gear’s po­si­tion as the most watched fac­tual se­ries in the world?

match the con­tin­u­ing global suc­cess of the orig­i­nal Keep­ing Up Ap­pear­ances ( left)?

Can Young Hy­acinth (to be shown this sum­mer) ( right)

Move over Wal­lan­der: Mid­somer Mur­ders kills its noir com­pe­ti­tion stone dead in Scan­di­navia

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