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Broadcaster First Window Acquisitions and Catch Up Exploitation


Liam Costello Senior Manager

Broadcasters in key Show Tracker markets acquired fewer US series overall in 2020 than in previous years. The declining number of first windows follows a longer-term trend that is unlikely to be a direct result of COVID-19. Pay TV acquisitions in the UK and Germany grew but elsewhere the totals fell, most noticeably in Canada and Australia, where SVOD services are increasingly active in the first window.

The biggest buyer in each market is predominantly acquiring US shows for Pay TV with the exception of Bell Media in Canada, who also acquired a small number of titles for its Free TV channel CTV (they also buy for the Crave streaming service). Sky remains the biggest Pay TV buyer across the UK, Italy and Germany with long standing deals for HBO and Showtime content. In Sweden and Spain fewer shows are picked up in the first window by linear channels – Disney are the biggest buyer for the Fox brand.

At an aggregated level when looking at all broadcaster activity in Show Tracker markets, the trend in both Free and Pay TV exploitation is for growth in enhanced catch-up. In-season stacking and Boxsets are the normal offering for Pay TV and is growing – albeit at a slower pace – for Free TV. Proportionally, more shows acquired by Free TV in the first window are offered as a Boxset – but this is based on a smaller volume of titles.

There are vast differences in terms of the catch-up exploitation by market. In Spain (23) and Italy (22) there were a similar number of Pay TV first windows, but the number of series offered with Stacking or as a Boxset varied significantly – Spain 87%, Italy just 50%.

Almost half of all Boxsets offered by broadcast channels last year in Show Tracker markets were in the UK, followed by Australia. Enhanced catch-up in the remaining markets still lies mostly with Stacking. 20 Boxsets were released in the UK, with 14 of these from Sky’s Pay TV channels. Eight US series were released by Sky Comedy as a Boxset, with one each from Sky 1 and Sky Witness.

Only a small handful of Boxsets released in the last six months were from Free TV , these including ‘Vagrant Queen’ (SBS Viceland) and ‘Love Life’ (BBC One). In addition to acquiring shows for linear channels there is increasing activity by broadcasters with adjacent OTT services. ‘Awkwafina Is Nora from Queens’ (ViacomCBS) was released as an online exclusive by BBC Three/iPlayer, as was ‘Our Boys’ (Keshet) by SBS On Demand. Elsewhere public broadcasters such as RAI and ABC are also trialling online exclusives.

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