A new independent report Screen Business, published today by the BFI, reveals the highest ever return on investment to the UK economy of £13.48bn (GVA) from the UK’s Government’s screen tax reliefs from 2017-2019. The in-depth triennial report shows the tax reliefs generated record-breaking levels of production and jobs; grew local businesses and infrastructure expansion across the UK’s nations and England’s regions; attracted record levels of inward investment; boosted exports of UK productions and services internationally; and created wider economic benefits for other industries, including tourism and retail.
The report underlines how the strength and resilience of the screen industries pre-pandemic has enabled the production sector to bounce back so effectively and become one of the UK’s strongest booming industries with £4.7bn production spend on film and high-end television alone from January to September 2021. Over the three year period of the report, direct spend on screen production in the UK has increased by 74% between 2017 and 2019 to reach £13.86 billion (£7.94 billion, 2014-2016).
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: “The UK is home to some of the best creative talent in the world, and our TV and film industry is a jewel in our crown, driving hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions for the economy.
We’ve ensured the sector has had our support throughout the pandemic, with the furlough and self-employment schemes, and the £500 million Film and TV production Restart Scheme is now helping productions get back up and running.
We continue to support the creative sector – our tax reliefs make the UK an attractive place to film and are driving a wave of private investment, and our Plan for Jobs is helping more people to enter the industry through apprenticeships, traineeships and the Kickstart scheme.”
Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said: “This report shows just how important Government action has been in driving unprecedented growth across the screen industries. UK content not only keeps audiences at home and around the world entertained but also provides a huge boost to our economy.
“We have backed our incredible screen sector during the pandemic, through the UK Film & TV Production Restart Scheme and the Culture Recovery Fund, to ensure the country cements its reputation as being the best place in the world to shoot high end film and TV.”
Ben Roberts, BFI chief executive said: “We work with industry and Government to build the UK screen sector, and Screen Business is evidence of the strength of the tax reliefs and how they have supported a staggering level of production and jobs, and built business across the UK’s nations and regions.
It’s a testament to this strength that our screen industries have bounced back faster than almost any other industry post pandemic. As we look to the future we need to ensure that we stay on top of our game – by building the skilled workforce this level of production critically needs and increasing investment in areas across the UK where there are opportunities for growth and innovation.”
Screen Business analyses film and TV production and video games development spend over the latest three-year period of full data, 2017-2019. The report reveals that an estimated £1.02 billion in tax relief seeded £5.11 billion in direct production spend in 2019, a 61% increase on 2016, and led to an additional £6.43 billion in GVA for the UK economy. UK-made productions generated £13.48 billion in overall GVA, a 23.7% increase between 2017and 2019.
This GVA yielded £3.60 billion in tax revenues for the Exchequer in 2019, a 27% increase since 2017. Production spend on film, high-end, children’s television and animation which would not take place without the tax reliefs, known as additionality, was worth £6.14 billion in 2019.
Direct spend on production generated record £5.11 billion in 2019 across all screen sectors, up from £4.31 billion in 2017:
- £2.08 billion from high-end TV production (HETV), a 70% increase on 2017;
- £2.02 billion from film production; spend consistently exceeding £2 billion a year
- £860.4 million (est.) from video games development supported by tax relief, 23% up from £700.8 million (est.) in 2017
- £86.0 million from children’s TV programme production, a 16% increase on 2017
- £65.3 million from animation programme production, a 27% decrease on 2017
- inward investment and co-production spend for film, high-end TV, animation and children’s programmes is driving boom with £3.45 billion in 2019, 81% of total spend
Screen Business: How tax incentives power economic growth across the UK is a comprehensive analysis of the economic contribution of the tax reliefs for film, high-end television video games, TV animation programmes and children’s TV programmes. The report uses the latest complete dataset available from 2017-2019.
The report has been produced by the international consultancy Olsberg SPI with Nordicity and commissioned by the BFI, supported by industry partners including the British Film Commission (BFC), Pact, Pinewood Group, TIGA, Ukie, the UK Screen Alliance and Animation UK. The analysis is consistent with the 2018 edition of Screen Business and applies HM Treasury Green Book principles and best practice economic modelling to accurately estimated the impact of these important revenue-generating tax reliefs for the economy. 2019 is the latest year that full data can be provided to calculate and analyse the complete economic contribution of the screen sectors.
John McVay OBE, Pact CEO, said: “The report once again shows the value of the TV and film tax reliefs to the UK economy, bringing huge inward investment to the UK, creating jobs and enabling small businesses across the UK to grow. The strength of the UK’s TV and film infrastructure – along with the Government’s Production Restart Scheme – has enabled producers to get back into production quickly to try and recoup the £450 million in lost revenues due to the pandemic. With staying in becoming the new going out over the past 18 months, never before has the UK’s status as a global leader in TV and film been more apparent.”
Adrian Wootton, CEO of the British Film Commission and Film London, said: “This report provides the comprehensive evidence, which we have experienced over the last few years, that there is an unprecedented boom in the popularity of this country – throughout our nations and regions – to make content for global audiences. We have embarked on a new Golden Age for film and TV, one that provides unrivalled opportunities for our industry, our economy and our communities to stimulate long- term job creation and prosperity for the whole of UK.
“It is more important than ever that we continue to focus on, invest and build the additional stage space, and skills base, right across our nations and regions. That will allow every corner of the United Kingdom to benefit from the new jobs and investment, and to share in the continuing success of one of our economy’s good news stories.”
Andrew M Smith, corporate affairs director, Pinewood Group said: “Today’s report puts the data behind the UK’s success in delivering world-class films, television and video games thanks to our highly skilled workforce, state of the art facilities and fiscal incentives. Pinewood’s increased investment in new and expanded production facilities and training programmes underlines our confidence in the UK as a leading player in this global industry and the opportunities we have for further growth and success.”
Neil Hatton, chief executive, UK Screen Alliance, said: “This report underlines the strength of the UK’s VFX industry and shows steady growth over the three years prior to the pandemic. From evidence outside this report, we know that there is a huge opportunity for the UK to capture a greater share of the global VFX market and create many new jobs in the UK that have high levels of skill and productivity. Screen Business provides us with a springboard for conversations with government aimed at unlocking this considerable potential for further growth.”
Dr Jo Twist OBE, CEO of Ukie, said: “The latest Screen Business report demonstrates the healthy growth of the UK’s video games and interactive entertainment ecosystem, one which is supporting jobs and contributing significantly to the economy right across the country. Policies such as Video Games Tax Relief have played an immensely important role in supporting our thriving sector, which is an important part of the creative economy. We look forward to working with Government to identify ways to continue to strengthen the ecosystem to create more jobs in this highly innovative and creative sector.”
Kate O’Connor, executive chair-animation UK, said: “The UK’s animation sector is internationally renowned for its creativity, character development and storytelling. The introduction of the Animation Tax Relief had a dramatic impact on production spend, however, the period covered by this report shows for the first time a reported decline. The bigger picture is more revealing, because whilst production spend on animation for TV and online dipped, it increased significantly for animation films from £80m to £520.4m, which reflects expansion in the market for animated content overall. We are determined that the UK sector grows its market share and will look at factors in this period, including the increasingly competitive offers from other countries. There is no doubt that tax reliefs, as a fiscal lever, trigger growth.”
UK HETV production now delivers the highest spend (40.7%) across the UK screen sectors, recording £2.08 billion in 2019, more than five times its spend of £392.8 million in 2013, the year the tax relief was introduced.
Expenditure on feature film production in the UK has consistently topped £2 billion for three years and has more than doubled in the 12 years since the film tax relief was introduced, from £849.2 million in 2007 to £2.02 billion in 2019.
The video games tax relief, which came into effect in 2014, supported an estimated £860.4 million of development expenditure in 2019, a 22.8% increase from £700.8 million in 2017.
The children’s television and animation tax reliefs have helped these smaller but culturally vital sectors develop and generate expenditure of £86.0 million and £65.3 million respectively. Animation work is also incorporated into feature films, high-end television and children’s programmes supported by other screen sector tax reliefs and therefore also contributes to the spend and GVA for those reliefs.
With its cutting-edge digital skills, the UK’s VFX sector is major contributor to the screen sector’s growth. Direct spend on VFX across all tax relief production is estimated to have been £363.5 million in 2019, a 32% increase on £239.8 million in 2016. The overall economic contribution across the screen sector value chain attributable to VFX was £891.0 million in 2019. Over the three years of the report the total VFX GVA is £3.18 billion.
Studio expansion and investment
The growth in film and television production activity and expenditure has attracted investment from private and public investors into the sector’s production infrastructure, particular studio developments. Whilst investment in film and TV studios has been mainly centred on the Metro London cluster, recent years have seen planning, development and investment in all UK nations and in several of England’s regions. The report details an estimated £131.6m spent on building or expanding UK studios between 2017 and 2019 – also providing jobs for other industries – and a further £785.4 million for developments which had received planning permission by the end of 2020.
Since the 2018 edition of Screen Business, new studios have opened UK-wide including Wolf Studios in Wales, First Stage in Scotland, Belfast Harbour Studios in Northern Ireland and The Depot in England. Planned investments for further studio expansion including Eastbrook Studios (East London), Pinewood and Shepperton and Sky Studios, Elstree.
The tax reliefs are also supporting innovation which attracts investment and boosts the UK’s competitiveness in a global sector. With technology and creativity at their core, the screen sectors are at the cutting-edge of innovation with the products they create and the technology, processes and skills involved in making them.
The report looks at a number of case studies, such as leading VFX and animation studio Jellyfish Pictures which has established its first studio outside London, in Sheffield. World-leading facility Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) opened the largest volumetric stage in the UK at Pinewood Studios this year and has innovated on the original ground-breaking LED technology developed for The Mandalorian in 2018. Leading UK VFX companies Framestore, MPC (Moving Picture Company) and DNEG are developing their virtual production capability reducing environmental impact, more efficient production workflows and creating new jobs for new roles.
Growth, jobs, productivity and tax revenues
Over three years the tax reliefs have driven an 18.4% growth in actual production spend to reach £5.11 billion in 2019. Production and video games development activity and content generated by the tax relief sectors created 156,030 direct, indirect and induced FTEs of employment specifically in production/development in 2019, 18% higher than 132,300 in 2017. When spillover impacts of the screen sector such as tourism, merchandise licensing and sales, brand promotion and esports are taken into account, the overall employment impact increases to 218,790 FTEs in 2019 up from 181,850 in 2017, and a 45% increase on 150,550 in 2016.
All screen sector tax reliefs generate a return on investment through GVA. In 2019 screen production supported by the tax reliefs generated £13.48 billion in GVA for the UK economy, a 23.7% increase over the three years 2017-2019. Film was the largest contributor generating £7.68 billion GVA followed by high-end TV generating £4.17 billion GVA.
In terms of return on investment (RoI), every pound of film tax relief generates £8.30 additional GVA; HETV tax relief generates £6.44 additional GVA; animation tax relief generates £4.53 additional GVA; children’s television tax relief generates £3.20 additional GVA; and video games tax relief generates £1.72 GVA.
Production spend and related job creation across tax relief supported production and video games development has helped generate significant tax revenues for government. The report estimates that tax revenues have grown by 27% from £2.84 billion in 2017 to £3.60 billion in 2019.
The growth in spend and investment within the UK screen infrastructure is stimulating further need for skilled people. The BFI’s £19 million skills investment plan launched in 2017 supported through the National Lottery, set out to address the need for 10,000 new entrants to keep the UK in the pole position of global film production over the next five years. The growth in screen production halted the first months of the pandemic shutdown in 2020 but has accelerated over the past 12 months, creating an even higher demand for skilled workers and an opportunity for the sector to power the UK’s wider recovery.
The rate of productivity (the amount of economic output, GVA, per FTE across the tax relief screen sectors) across the tax relief supported screen sectors ranges from £81,550 per FTE for film, high-end TV and children’s programmes to £84,000 for animation, £89,743 for VFX and £121,000 for video games. All of these productivity rates are much higher than the average for the UK economy as a whole (£66,100).
The tax reliefs play a crucial role supporting the UK’s competitiveness as a creative destination, attracting international inward investment production in the face of strong global competition. They have also helped lead to a repatriation of film and high-end TV productions which would otherwise have been made outside the UK.
Attracted to the UK’s world-class skills, facilities and diverse locations, film, HETV, children’s and animation production supported by the tax reliefs attracted £3.45 billion of inward investment and international co-production in 2019 – almost a three-fold increase on £2.20 billion in 2016 – including projects from the US, Europe and other markets. The inward investment and co-production share accounts for 67% of the total spend in those areas of production in 2019.
HETV attracted £1.60 billion of inward investment and international co-production expenditure in 2019, 76% of the total spend, almost a threefold increase on £612.2 million in 2016. Film attracted £1.81 billion, or 87.9% of the total spend, and an 17% increase on £1.55 billion 2016. Animation programmes generated £31.8 million of inward investment and co-production in 2019, 48.7% of the total spend of £65.3 million.
An estimated £860.4 million was spent in the UK in 2019 on the development of video games supported by tax relief, representing 31% of the total estimated turnover (£2.77 billion) of UK video games.
In addition to the macro-economic impacts generated by the screen sector, the report also examines specific micro-economic benefits generated by film and HETV production for other business sectors, generally categorised as the ‘ripple effect’. Forensic analysis of the production budgets of three productions was undertaken and revealed that between 40% and 60% of expenditure was spent in the general economy in sectors including local resources, such as travel and transport, construction, hospitality and catering. Budgeted production findings related to below-the-line spend include:
- An independent feature film (£20 million budget) – 7.76% on business support/supplies; 7.33% on digital services; 6.28% on construction; 6.09% million on travel and transport; 5.95% million on hospitality and catering; 2.22% on local labour; 2.13% on fashion and beauty; and 5.07% on studios/locations.
- An international feature film (£50 million budget) – 11.70% on construction; 9.82% on travel and transport; 9.71% on studios/locations; 6.49% on hospitality and catering; 4.20% on business support/supplies; 3.08% on local labour; 2.28% on music and performing arts; 2.22% on fashion and beauty; and 2.07% on digital services.
- A UK multi-part TV drama series (£5 million budget) – 8.09% on studios/locations; 7.27% on business support/supplies; 5.04% on travel and transport; 4.30% on hospitality and catering; 3.49% on music and performing arts; 3.45% on construction; 1.01% on fashion and beauty; and 0.41% on local labour.
A significant amount of HETV production takes place in the UK nations and England’s regions, with an estimated £1.56 billion in production spend, or around 33% of the UK total, being undertaken outside of Metro London between 2017–2019.
In 2019, HETV spend generated 33,548 FTE jobs in Metro London and 15,612 throughout the rest of the UK. Taking into consideration the wider impacts of the HETV content value chain, 45,240 FTE jobs were created in Metro London in 2019 and 19,070 throughout the rest of the UK.
HETV spend generated £1.67 billion in GVA in Metro London in 2019 and £778.3 million throughout the rest of the UK. The total impact of the HETV content value chain generated £2.64 billion in GVA in Metro London in 2019 and £1.04 billion throughout the rest of the UK.
Film production has also been more focused around Metro London which has a highly-developed base of specialist facilities and services. However, the report shows significant impacts across the UK, with around £1.18 billion spent outside Metro London over 2017-2019. This represents around 19% of the total.
In 2019, this spend generated 37,685 FTE jobs in Metro London and 7,775 FTEs throughout the rest of the UK. When the wider impacts of the film content value chain are taken into consideration, 49,845 FTE jobs were created in Metro London in 2019 and 19,085 throughout the rest of the UK.
Film spend generated £1.96 billion in GVA in Metro London in 2019 and £404.1 million throughout the rest of the UK. The wider total impact shows that £3.74 billion in GVA was generated in Metro London in 2019 and £1.24 billion throughout the rest of the UK.
GLOBAL COMPARISON OF PRODUCTION INCENTIVES
In 2019, global expenditure on feature film and television production – ie investment in scripted film and television and documentaries, but not sport, news or commercials – was estimated to have reached $177 billion. As a result, the screen sector is a powerful economic driver – particularly in jurisdictions, such as the UK, which have a highly-developed development and production offer and a stable incentives base.
The UK screen sector tax reliefs are among around 100 automatic incentives on offer around the world. Screen Business provides a technical overview of a range of global incentives including those in established European Union (EU) markets, including France and Germany; incentives with innovative approaches to attracting longer-term infrastructure investment; and incentives with particularly attractive headline incentive rates. It also notes incentives for video games development and VFX activity.
Data analysis in the Screen Business report has been conducted in line with HMT ‘Green Book’ methodology and focuses specifically on production activity generated in those sectors supported by tax reliefs, rather than the total value of all. It therefore excludes non-UK content produced, distributed, sold, viewed or exhibited in the UK.
A breakdown on the key findings by UK screen sector are below.
Screen Business – How screen sector tax reliefs power economic growth across the UK 2017-2019 will be published here at 00:01 on Monday 13 December: https://www.bfi.org.uk/screen-business
Tax relief, spend and jobs
Film tax relief has helped generate significant increases in production expenditure from £849.5 million in 2007 (the year the relief was introduced) to £2.02 billion in 2019, of which £1.77 billion or 87.9% was inward investment production. Over the report period 2017-2019, the film tax relief has supported higher-budget inward investment films such as Avengers: Infinity War, Mission: Impossible – Fallout and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, all made in the UK alongside independent UK films such as Darkest Hour and Blue Story and UK-made animation features Early Man and Isle of Dogs. Film production also takes place across the UK, eg Ordinary Love in Northern Ireland, Wild Rose in Scotland and Six Minutes to Midnight in Wales. Productions in England’s regions include The Personal History of David Copperfield and How To Build A Girl.
When impact on industries that derive benefits from film content are taken into account, film contributed a total GVA of £7.68 billion to the UK economy in 2019, a 35% increase on £5.67 billion in 2016. Tax revenue generated from VAT, employment compensation in 2019 and other income in 2019 is estimated to be £1.89 billion, a 37% increase on £1.39 billion in 2016.
The report’s analysis gives the fullest picture of the sector prior to the pandemic; evidence shows that production activity has accelerated during recovery. The BFI’s production tracking statistics for 2020/2021 to date show a total film spend of £1.8 billion between October 2020 and September 2021, not far behind the pre-pandemic 2018/2019 spend. Films which went into production in the UK since October 2020 include inward investment productions Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania and Wonka, alongside domestic UK films such as A Christmas Number One, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and the UK/France co-production, The Son.
Film generates substantial employment within the UK. In 2019, film production alone generated 31,160 FTEs of direct employment across the film value chain and contributed £2.91 billion in direct GVA and £729.1 million in direct tax revenues. With all impacts added, tax relief supported film content delivered an estimated 120,650 FTEs, £7.68 billion in GVA and £1.89 billion in tax revenue.
The production spend generated by films produced by streaming platforms is included in the analysis for the high-end television tax relief.
The distribution of UK-made films generated an estimated £3.52 billion in revenue across all platforms and £1.39 billion in direct GVA in 2019. The cinema exhibition of UK films in 2019 generated £813.0 million in turnover (a significant increase on £556.8 million in 2016), and £346.5 million in direct GVA. The value of UK films on digital platforms surpassed physical video sales and rentals in the UK for the first time in 2018 and in 2019 accounted for 63% of the total market. The value of films on digital and physical platforms generated £62 million in direct GVA in 2019. Free-to-air and subscription television channels generated £118 million of value for UK films, a decline from £181m in 2016 reflecting the rise of film consumption on digital video platforms and the declining value to broadcasters. The direct economic impact of UK film across the value chain is estimated to be £2.91 billion in 2019, a 19% increase on £2.44 billion in 2016.
International trade and exports
Film is a significant source of export revenues for the UK, generating £2.26 billion in 2019 and contributing to a trade surplus of £1.28 billion. Film also showed a significantly higher export-to-GVA ratio of 0.40 compared to the UK’s second highest sector (information and communications industries) of 0.33.
Tourism and UK brand benefits
The global consumption of UK film – including its stories, characters and locations – can stimulate interest in the UK and enhance its image and reputation, creating valuable promotional benefits in both cultural and economic terms.
The value of product placement by UK brands to reach consumers in overseas markets is estimate to generate £1.74 billion in GVA in 2019 and £399.7 million in tax revenue.
Visitors to the UK spent an estimated £892.6 million in film-related tourism, generating £898.0 million in GVA and supporting 17,660 jobs and yielding £278.6 million in tax revenues in 2019.
Merchandise sales related to film production in the UK generated estimated revenues of £388.8 million during 2019.
Total economic contribution
When the direct and wider economic contribution of the film sector throughout the value chain is taken into account, the tax relief generated 120,650 FTEs, £7.68 billion in GVA and £1.89 billion in tax revenue in 2019.
In 2019, an estimated £3.35 billion or 92% of production spend supported by the film tax relief would not have occurred in the absence of the tax relief, ie the rate of additionality generated by the tax relief. As film production presents the highest share of inward investment production, the film tax relief also demonstrates the highest rate of additionality.
High-end television (HETV) production in the UK has boomed since the introduction of the tax relief in 2013. Recent years have seen increasing amounts of HETV (and film) production taking place outside of the Metro London hub. Major shows which have been hits around the world such as Game of Thrones, The Crown, His Dark Materials, Sex Education, Outlander and Peaky Blinders have shown the UK has the infrastructure, services and skills to make large-scale prestige productions, including productions for major online providers such as Netflix, Amazon and Apple, which are investing heavily in original UK content. Netflix spent £740m making 60 TV shows and films in the UK in 2020 and has recently announced it is doubling the size of its base at Shepperton Studios.
Tax relief, spend and jobs
Screen Business marks a turning point in screen sector production activity. For the first time, production expenditure on high-end television (HETV) shows in 2019 surpassed expenditure on feature films. HETV spend has increased more than fivefold from £392.8 million in 2013, the year that the high-end television tax relief was introduced, to £2.08 billion in 2019. Of this, just under £1.60 billion – 76.8% of the total – was contributed by inward investment and co-production.
The BFI’s production tracking statistics for 2021 show a total HETV spend of £4.14 billion between October 2020 and September 2021, nearly double the pre-pandemic 2018/2019 spend of £2.3 billion.
Further economic impact generated by HETV content boosted its total GVA contribution to £3.67 billion in 2019, including £2.34 billion in employment compensation.
In addition to the spend and economic impact generated by the production of HETV projects, the report shows that HETV content also generated £1.71 billion in revenue for the UK’s broadcasting industries in 2019 and £307.2 million in GVA.
High-end television production is also a major and growing source of employment for the UK, generating 28,760 direct FTEs throughout all parts of the value chain in 2019 (more than double 13,950 FTEs in 2016). When wider employment impacts are taken into account, overall FTEs rise to 74,620 in 2019, more than double he estimated 34,900 FTEs in 2016.
Tourism and other benefits
The global success of high-end television productions such as Game of Thrones, Outlander, Shetland, Poldark and Peaky Blinders in showcasing the UK has a major impact on tourism. The report estimates that HETV-related tourism spent £499.7 million in 2019 generating 10,310 FTEs and £502.7 million in GVA, yielding £158.1 million in tax revenues.
Total economic contribution
When the wider economic impacts are taken into account, tax relief supported HETV production is estimated to have generated 74,620 FTEs, £4.18 billion in GVA and £1.26 billion in tax revenue in 2019.
In 2019, an estimated £2.68 billion or 84% of production spend supported by the HETV tax relief would not have occurred in the absence of the tax relief, ie the rate of additionality generated by the tax relief.
Whilst VFX is not a direct recipient of its own tax relief, it has become a vital and creative element in film and TV production, driving business growth and innovation through UK-based productions such as Tenet, Chernobyl and His Dark Materials. This success has fuelled significant private investment in VFX facilities establishing the UK as a global leader in delivering award-winning VFX work, in turn attracting further inward investment production, creating jobs and tax revenue.
Film-related VFX accounted for the largest proportion with £309.9 million followed by HETV production with £50.9 million. Animation TV programmes and children’s TV programmes accounted for less than 1% of the total.
The direct impact of VFX spend on tax relief supported film, HETV, children’s and animation programmes generated £303.9 million in GVA in 2019, 5,470 FTEs and £265.0 million in employment compensation. When the total impact of VFX throughout the value chain is taken into account (including distribution, exhibition, broadcast and video platforms), VFX generated £855.9 million in GVA and 11,840 FTEs. When wider spillover impacts are attributed, GVA rises to £1.29 billion, an 86% increase on £692.4 million in 2016 and an estimated 20,050 FTEs.
The UK develops and produces globally successful video games including the highest-grossing entertainment product of all-time, Grand Theft Auto V which has achieved more than $6 billion in worldwide revenues, Football Manager and Forza Horizon. The industry continues to grow, and produces leading global technologies and content, including in emerging areas such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality, augmented reality and esports.
Recent years have seen significant levels of corporate investment flowing into the UK video games sector, with a number of developers attracting investment from foreign investors. Between 2017 and 2020, corporate investments amounted to approximately £756 million. The existence of a stable and supportive tax relief for the sector in the UK can be considered to be an influential factor for investing in UK video games developers.
The video games sector comprises 2,286 companies located across the UK with creative video games hubs including Brighton, Cambridge, Cardiff, Guildford, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Oxford, Sheffield, Leeds, Nottingham and Warwick/Leamington Spa.
Tax relief, spend and jobs
The video games sector is a significant component of the UK screen landscape with UK-made video games – such as LEGO Star Wars – The Force Awakens, Total War: Warhammer II, Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair, Monument Valley 2 and Sackboy: A Big Adventure – making huge commercial and cultural impacts globally. The video games relief (VGTR) was introduced in 2014 to support the creation of UK-made and culturally-focused games and to enable the UK industry to grow and maintain its competitiveness in a growing global sector.
In 2019, expenditure on video games development supported by tax relief was estimated to have been £860.4 million, representing 31% of the sector’s total estimated turnover (£2.77 billion.
Across the video games value chain – development to consumer sales – tax relief supported video games generated 5,640 FTEs of direct employment, £592.7 million in direct GVA and £143.9 million in direct tax revenues.
The sector is also a driver of cutting-edge innovation that can benefit other screen sectors. For example, video game engine technology in film and television production.
In 2019, UK-made video games accounted for £468.9 million in digital consumer sales in the UK and £79.0 million in physical sales. Digital sales of tax relief supported video games accounted for £1.1 million in direct GVA and physical sales generated £6.0 million in direct GVA in 2019.
In 2019, games-related merchandise sales and events generated £146.4 million in revenue in the UK. Esports is a rapidly-growing element of the video games landscape and whilst esports growth is not directly driven by the video games tax relief, some titles with esports elements have accessed the tax relief, such as F1® 2019 and Assetto Corsa Competizione. It is estimated that esports generated £111.5 million in GVA for the UK in 2019, of which £4.9 million is likely to be associated with games made with support from the tax relief in 2019.
Total economic contribution of the video games tax relief
When all impacts are taken into account, the overall economic contribution of VGTR supported games rises to £1.07 billion in GVA, 15,130 FTEs of employment and £247.7 million in tax revenues.
In 2019, an estimated £295.7 million or 28% of video games development supported by the tax relief would not have occurred in the absence of the tax relief, ie the rate of additionality generated by the tax relief.
The UK has a long tradition in creating successful animation programmes such as The Gruffalo, Peppa Pig and the Wallace and Gromit franchise, which have become global franchises generating millions in revenues and long-term intellectual property (IP) value for UK creators. Animation is also easily adapted to other languages, a benefit for exports and revenues that can be generated for many years into the future. Such projects can also generate significant downstream value, particularly through merchandise sales and tourism.
Tax relief for animation programmes was introduced in 2013 to support a sector facing strong overseas competition and falling license fees from broadcasters. The full value of the animation sector is not solely presented within the impacts of the Animation Tax Relief alone; animation production is also contributing to the film, children’s television and video games industries. Between 2016 and 2019, 14 animation feature films were made with a combined production spend of £374.1 million; further spend is captured within the HETV spend.
The tax relief enabled £65.3 million of production expenditure in 2019, a decrease from £114.7 million in 2016. This spend on production included £38.3 million in inward investment and co-production.
Animation programmes are estimated to have generated £130.6 million in direct GVA, £74.2 million in direct tax revenue and 1,460 FTEs of direct employment in 2019. With additional value chain and spillover impacts, tax relief supported animation generated an estimated GVA of £285.2 million and tax revenue £110.2 million, delivering 4,360 FTEs of employment.
Tourism and other impacts
Animation generates significant economic benefits to the tourism sector, eg. CBeebies Land at Alton Towers in Staffordshire showcases some of the most popular CBeebies programmes, including Hey Duggee, In the Night Garden and Teletubbies. Peppa Pig World at Paultons Park in Hampshire consistently receives over 1 million visitors a year. Wallace & Gromit’s Musical Marvels toured the UK in 2019.
Total economic contribution of the animation programmes tax relief
Despite the size of the sector, animation delivers a strong return on investment for the tax relief; it is estimated that 50% of animation programmes supported by the tax relief would not have occurred in the absence of the animation tax relief.
CHILDREN’S TELEVISION PROGRAMMES
The UK has a successful trackrecord in producing high-quality children’s television with recent productions including Horrible Histories, Hank Zipzer and The Worst Witch. However, since the abolition of the content quota for children’s content on commercial television in 2003, the sector has faced major challenges in financing and creating culturally relevant children’s television. The children’s programme tax relief was introduced in 2015 and is therefore still in its infancy for tracking growth.
Screen Business shows that the tax relief supported £86.0 million of UK production spend in 2019 (a 49.7% increase on £65.8 million in 2016), generating £132.2 million in direct GVA and 1,610 FTEs across the value chain in 2019.
The analysis estimates that UK broadcasters earned an estimated £224.9 million of revenue in 2019 attributable to children’s TV supported by the tax relief and worth £40.5 million in GVA. A further £18.7 million in direct GVA is estimated to have been contributed by tax relief supported production on video platforms and DVD/Blu-ray sales in the UK.
Tourism and other impacts
Children’s television programmes also generate economic opportunities and benefits for the tourism and leisure sectors at home and internationally. CBBC’s Horrible Histories series, originated from Terry Deary’s successful books, have spawned live performances that have travelled the world. The economic contribution of the global success Peppa Pig is attributed to the animation programme tax relief.
Total economic contribution of the children’s TV programmes tax relief
The children’s TV tax relief generated an estimated total GVA of £264.1 million including tax revenues of £84.0 million and 4,030 FTEs. It is estimated that 40% of children’s TV programmes supported by the tax relief would not have occurred in the absence of the tax relief.