Can the UK keep punching above its weight with streamers?

8 November, 2023

Image: Chernobyl, HBO

When looking at the top 10 most in-demand non-US TV series by platform in 2023 across the eight major premium streaming services, UK shows boasted the most overall appearances with 28, according to Parrot Analytics. This speaks to the region’s ability to create programming that resonates outside of its borders, traveling well from country to country. But in today’s ever-fluid and precarious entertainment ecosystem, complacency is a stepping stone to irrelevancy. Just because the UK is an established exporter of in-demand programming doesn’t mean there aren’t areas of improvement to be addressed. 

The 10 most in-demand UK series globally this year provide some insight into programming expansion opportunities here. The list below features three period dramas (Peaky Blinders, The Crown, Chernobyl), kids programming (Peppa Pig), a sci-fi dystopian anthology drama (Black Mirror), a high school dramedy (Sex Education), two fantasy dramas (His Dark Materials, Good Omens), a beloved but niche long-running sci-fi adventure (Doctor Who) and a modern reimagining of a classic detective drama (Sherlock). [


This is a great list of highly successful programming, almost all of which this writer has watched himself (if my couch could talk, it would be concerned with how infrequently I leave it). Yet there is a running theme that connects most of these series for better and for worse: they are largely female skewing and do not tend to resonate with Gen X+ viewers for the most part. While this cements the target audience for UK series performing in the upper echelon at the global level, it also represents whitespace opportunity for British programmers to consider. In other words, who else can be served by UK content?

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By examining worldwide demand share vs supply share of UK content — or how much demand audiences are expressing for a given genre and/or sub-genre compared to how saturated or undersaturated that genre is — programming development can be directed into new and existing areas to help even out an audience demographic profile. 

First, here are the UK genres broken out by how much the demand share differs from the supply share. A positive number indicates that there is room for further investment while a negative number suggests the genre might already have too much volume in the market. 

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Drama (14.8%), Children (5.3%) and Sports (1.1%) represent the three genres of UK programming that can arguably support additional investment in terms of global demand vs supply while Variety (-3.2%), Reality (-6.6%) and Documentary (-11.4%) are struggling in this area. (Animation, Action & Adventure, Comedy and Horror all hover around a neutral 0.0%, implying potential opportunity as well). 

The key, however, is to identify which subgenres within these genres most appeal to male viewers and key demos that would round out top UK programming’s attraction worldwide. Remaining a dominant global player is as much about expansion into underserved areas as it is doubling down on what is working. 

Within Drama, crime dramas (which boast 4.0% more demand than supply worldwide) such as Gangs of London and historical dramas (2.7%) such as Domina count Gen X+ as its first or second-largest audience demographic, per Parrot Analytics. Period dramas like Downton Abbey tend to follow suit as well. Meanwhile, sci-fi dramas in the vein of Red Dwarf and The Demon Headmaster tend to over-index with male audiences on a global level. Within Children’s programming, the cartoon subgenre tends to appeal more to male viewers while naturally skewing towards Gen Z. Action and Adventure, which is evenly distributed in the market given its neutral demand vs supply, also over indexes with male viewers. 


Unsurprisingly, creators aren’t going to stop making comedies and unscripted series just because of the flat-to-negative demand vs supply ratios. Since continued development in these lanes is inevitable, it can at least be targeted to continually balance out the UK’s programming exports and avoid oversaturation. 

Satire comedies (which boast 0.4% more demand than supply) like Fleabag and Ali G resonate most with Millennials and Gen X+, which provide a slightly older audience. Dramedies can most engage with Gen Z as all programmers look to capture the attention of the next generation with disposable income. At the same time, sketch comedy (-0.5%), stand-up comedy (-0.4%) and family comedy (-0.4%) appear to be stretched to their respective limits. 

Despite the rise of the true crime subgenre over the last several years, staying away from pricey entries in this lane under the unscripted umbrella may be wise as it has grown over-saturated (-2.7%). But within the Reality genre, competition reality (0.7%) such as Britain’s Got Talent still have room to grow. 

The UK is already a dominant force in the international entertainment space. But financial belt tightening and a reopening of the licensing market across the industry is taking place simultaneously, creating a tenuous tightrope for programmers and content sellers. While production companies don’t need to offer something for everyone — broad appeal programming requires immense investment and niches are generally easier to reach — identifying strengths and weak points can enable more efficient development. If the goal is to fill a void within the global marketplace from a British perspective, this programming understanding helps direct decision making. 

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