Children’s TV: broken?

CBBC commissioning rounds have typically had a few hundred submissions. The recent one had – and I’d advise you to be sitting down – 2,500. I actually feel quite sorry for the BBC about this, because wading through that lot is going to be a somewhat onerous task. Heck, finding somewhere to put them all will be tricky.

But let’s think about it for a moment. Coming up with an idea, writing a pitch, talking it through with somebody senior, redrafting it, preparing something even slightly glossy, and submitting it – that all costs money. By my reckoning, £400 is conservative. That’s a cool million spent on pitches.

Currently, there seems to be a round of call-backs/pitch meetings going on, which involve (in my case) another day’s work, being flown to London, and put up in an hotel… and there are three of us going. So far as I can gather there are circa 100 such meetings (again, conservative), at let’s say an average cost of another £400. So that’s another £40k.

There are, one gathers, about 7 commissions up for grabs. Suppose each of those commissions is worth £750,000. The ‘production fee’ for a CBBC show (in a facile sense, the profit margin) is – I believe – 15%.

(15% of £750k) × 7 commissions = £787500.

By this reckoning, whatever the outcome of this commissioning round, the children’s TV industry is going to make a net loss.

Of course, I’ve not taken co-production money into consideration, nor future international sales. This is hardly a thorough analysis. But you see my point, no?

(while I’m at it: at the Edinburgh TV Festival the BBC admitted that they’re also looking at the future of children’s programming on BBC1. Interesting.)

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