Portugal and SP Televisão among the largest producers of hours of TV fiction in the EU
Before the pandemic slowed the pace, decreasing productivity and increasing the costs of TV fiction production, the sector was booming in Europe. A report released this Thursday (8 April) shows that Portugal was the fourth European country that produced the largest number of hours in audiovisual fiction in 2019 and the second in which telenovelas had the most weight in the period between 2015 and 2019. Thanks to this, production company SP Televisão is at number seven in the Top 20 of European companies with the most hours of fiction made in 2019, a year in which more than a thousand titles were produced, including telefilms, series, minis series and telenovelas, and 12,500 hours of television fiction in the European Union.
The report from the European Audiovisual Observatory (EAO) dates back to February 2020, but has only now been made publicly available, and reveals the pre-covid-19 scenario exuding optimism and continued growth in TV fiction in general and the two-to-13 episodes series format in particular - if there were 422 in 2015, by 2019 there were 637 series produced in the EU. In contrast, telefilms are in sharp decline (down 30%), down from 396 produced in 2015 to just 280 four years later.
Portugal does not figure in the tops of countries with more short series production, dominated by countries with a tradition in this format such as the United Kingdom (the data respects the "pre-Brexit" and EU 28), Germany and France; Germany is the largest producer of telefilms and audiovisual fiction in general. But the seventh largest EU producer by number of hours produced in 2019 is Portuguese, SP Televisão, in a list topped by Warner Media (which owns HBO, HBO Europe or HBO Portugal), the German RTL group or Endemol Shine. In 2020, SP Televisão made the telenovelas Wild Land and Nazaré for SIC and Somebody Lost for CMTV, in addition to Tell Me How It Happened for RTP1.
12,500 hours of TV fiction were produced in 2019 in the EU
In the portrait made by the Observatory, Portugal continues to be the telenovelas country, in a universe of nations in which the private generalist channels are the main producers of television fiction; when it comes specifically to the shorter series, the public channels are the major drivers. In 2018, Portugal was the third country that produced the most hours.
Streaming on demand (VOD) services were in 2019 only a point of this reality, although a growing one. In 2015, they produced seven short series in the EU and two years ago they already had 56. The transposition of the so-called "Netflix directive" into EU member states legislation is meanwhile underway and is expected to increase local production for streaming platforms. The first Portuguese Netflix series, Glória, has already been filmed and co-production, 3 Caminos was on Amazon Prime before debuting on RTP. SIC launched its subscription streaming service in November 2020 and that is where it is premiering its fiction series such as Esperança, O Clube, Generala or the imminent Prisão Domiciliária.
Next to Portugal in their preference for telenovelas are Hungary, Poland, Spain and Greece. The countries that produce the most hours are Germany, Spain, the United Kingdom and Portugal. Germany is the country with the best balance between the genres produced, with series of more than 52 episodes dominating, followed by short series and series of 14-52 episodes; German TV movies are in decline, but still have in that market the largest expression of the 28 countries.
Co-productions fell in 2019, after four years of rising. There were about 1200 production companies active in the EU that year, but 39% of all production was in the hands of around 20 production companies.
In the period covered by this study, around 10,000 scriptwriters and 4,400 directors were working in television fiction; 44% of TV directors have worked in film; most scriptwriters work in groups, with European writers' rooms having a day of 2.6 professionals signing an episode of a series.
The study is based on information from the European Metadata Group, which analyses 176 channels and platforms operating in the EU for original European fiction, as well as data from the EAO itself.