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The UK’s TV Exports: Universally Loved

Here in the Uk, we all have our favourite British shows such as Love Island and The Office. But does the rest of the world share our opinion? With Betway we find out the top UK TV exports


The UK’s TV exports: Universally Loved

UK TV exports made £1.48 billion ($1.97 billion) in 2020 and is one world’s most successful TV industries, setting trends and creating globally-renowned shows.

But how does a show go from UK classic to worldwide icon?

Once a show proves its success in the UK, producers plan the next move to sell it on to international markets. These countries can then adapt the format to suit their market or broadcast in its original form.

Examples of these are top UK shows Planet Earth, The Chase and Strictly Come Dancing.

As more and more British shows expand around the globe, online casino Betway took a deep dive into scripted dramas, game shows and reality TV formats to find out which are the most popular exports.

How much money does the UK make from its TV exports?




UK exports Doctor WhoDownton Abbey and Planet Earth made £1bn of sales last year, out of a total of £1.48 billion. These 3 together formed the UK industry’s largest source of income.

In 2nd place at £160 million (11 per cent of total sales) were adaptations of UK formats, such as Love Island and Come Dine With Me.

See below for how the export sales breakdown into individual markets:




The most profitable territory for the UK is North America creating £572 million in revenue for the industry. £466 million coming from the US.

As expected the English speaking markets prove to be the most popular for UK TV shows as they can easily be adapted for local audiences. Australia and Canada making up 2 of the top 5.

But you can’t forget non-English speaking nations either, the biggest market being France (£102 million in revenue), followed by Nordic countries (£77 million).

Looking further afield there have been increases in exports to Latin American (13%) and Asian (15%) markets due to the rise of streaming services such as Brazil’s GloboPlay and Bilibili in China.

Which UK TV shows and formats have been remade worldwide?

With the huge variety of types of shows produced in the UK such as period dramas and comedies, it is no surprise many have become popular around the world.

Scripted shows




These include sitcoms, dramas and series. Below is just a small sample of some global hits that have been adapted to international markets:


• The Office

• Chernobyl

• His Dark Materials

• Doctor Foster

• Misfits

• Doctor Who

• Luther


While many have become a runaway success, some don’t always have the intended traction. For example, The InbetweenersSkins and Broadchurch continue to be watched on repeat in the UK yet their international adoptions failed to resonate with viewers.

Unscripted formats

These include reality dating shows to talent competitions. Below are examples sold to international markets.


• Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

• Love Island

• Got Talent

• Strictly Come Dancing

• Planet Earth

• Great British Bake Off

• Come Dine With Me

• Gogglebox

• First Dates


The UK has a strong reputation for producing strong unscripted format shows and with 42 per cent of the format’s global export sales in 2020, it makes the UK the top unscripted format producing country.

What are the most popular UK TV exports of all time?

To work out which exports are the biggest and most successful of all time we divided the biggest UK TV exports into four categories:


• Money-makers – formats and shows that make the most money.

• Most-viewed – shows with the highest viewing figures.

• Widest reach – formats that have been adapted into the most markets.

• Better than the originals – adaptations that outperformed their UK counterparts.



Factual programmes accounted for 28 per cent of all UK export revenue in 2020 with The Great British Bake Off one of the top shows having been licensed to 26 international markets, including the USA, Denmark, Italy and France.

The biggest export with £50 million in revenue each year from 214 territories being BBC’s Top Gear.

Most viewed

A huge success story is the US version of The Office with 57 billion minutes of streaming in 2020 on Netflix.

But topping that UK’s unscripted formats have done even better. Dancing with the Stars – or Strictly Come Dancing (in the UK) have 500 million viewers over 50 countries.

Widest reach

Another popular export has been studio-based shows such as Got Talent with 78 global sales in 2020, followed by Strictly Come Dancing with 63 sales, and both The X Factor plus Idols with 56 sales.

And you can’t talk about reach without mentioning classics Downtown Abbey and Vera being shown in 250 territories, and then crime series Agatha Christie’s Poirot and Midsomer Murders with more than 200 sales each.

Better than the originals

The UK Office only had 2 seasons with 6 episodes each. Due to the success of the US adaption, producers had to expand this to 22 episodes in season 2 and ultimately taking the comedy to a total of 9 seasons. The US version became a classic standing on its own feet, with an IMDB global popularity ranking of 26th (8.9 star rating) compared to the UK at 558th (8.5 stars rating)

Who Wants to be a Millionaire? Has had the biggest reaction on the world stage with 100 versions produced outside of the UK. The US 2020 reboot taking in an average of 5.6 million viewers per episode with a finale audience of 6.5 million. Whereas Jeremy Clarkson 2018’s UK reboot only had 5.06 million viewers.

What does the future hold for UK TV exports?

With an increase in the quality, quantity and sales of UK show exports, the UK’s entertainment and media revenue is projected to rise from £71.3 billion in 2021 to £87.9 billion in 2025.

Video-on-demand subscriptions continue to grow too and are expected to hit 1.495 billion by 2026. With on-demand platforms currently only accounting for 38 per cent of all international sales, there is much more room to run.

The current mix of the UK export market is likely to change over the next few years, especially as Brexit takes effect. The EU has already announced they want to cut down their reliance on British shows to improve “cultural diversity” and to encourage the industry to grow in smaller European countries.

But as one door closes, more will open as this will only create space to improve relationships with other exports markets such as the US, Latin America and Asia. ITV Studios has already set the ball rolling with a landmark deal with Brazil’s GloboPlay, who next year are set to broadcast more than 400 hours of UK shows.

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