Ahead of Series Mania next week, the EAO presented its latest report on audiovisual fiction production in Europe, showcasing how the pandemic led to an increase in high-end series produced, but with fewer episodes. The main findings, up next.

Through two years of the Covid pandemic and the international explosion of OTT platforms, original fiction production has transformed, aiming to take better advantage of smaller budgets and shifting its focus to titles that are more high-end and can travel worldwide.

In this scenario, the production of TV series has decreased during the pandemic years, as showcased by the European Audiovisual Observatory’s latest report, Audiovisual Fiction Production in Europe – 2021 figures.

Published just ahead of this year’s Series Mania, the report analyses the volume of TV/SVOD fiction films and series produced in Europe, and of European origin according to main acting roles, the main commissioners and producers, and the crews of screenwriters and directors involved in their creation.

So, while over 1 100 titles, 22 000 episodes and 14 000 hours of fiction are produced each year in Europe, the 2020/2021 COVID-19 crisis halted growth, according to the report.

Volume of AV fiction produced in Europe (2015-2021)

In terms of genres, daily telenovelas/soaps account for the bulk (61%) of hours produced.

With large volumes of telenovelas/soaps produced each year, Germany, Poland and Greece are the leaders in volume of hours produced. Hungary and Portugal are two other examples of countries driven by more-than-52-episode-per-season series.

In addition, more than half of all titles produced are 13-or-fewer-episodes-per-season series. 13-or-fewer-episodes-per-seasons series kept on growing during the COVID crisis, but seasons have less and shorter episodes.

Average number of episodes per season and duration of episodes (2015-2021)

Another key finding is that after a peak in 2018, fewer international co-productions came about. International co-productions account for 8% of all fiction titles and are mostly limited to TV films and to 2-to-3-episode-season series.

The majority of international co-productions used to be between two neighbouring countries sharing the same language (e.g. France and Belgium; Germany and Austria). But non-linguistic co-productions have gradually increased and represent close to 60% of all co-productions.

Public broadcasters commissioned 55% of titles, private broadcasters for 59% of hours. In 2021, the BBC, Netflix and Warner Bros. Discovery were the three main commissioners of 13-or-fewer-episode-per-season series.

Almost 1 400 production companies/groups produced at least one fiction title between 2015 and 2021, but only 6% of them produced at least one title in each of the last seven years. This significant turnover can be attributed to the intense renewal of TV series: on average, between 2015 and 2021, first seasons accounted for 51% of all seasons produced each year.

About 13 000 screenwriters and 7 000 directors were involved in the production of European original fiction between 2015 and 2021.