Bristol film economy worth almost £300m last year

A report into how the multi-award winning BBC Studios Natural History Unit (NHU) has boosted Bristol’s economy and contributed to the wider region’s media boom.

According to the report, natural history production made 44.2% (£127.2m) of the Bristol screen production industry’s overall £288m turnover in 2022 alone.

The BBC Bristol Economic Impact Report, which launched to coincide with The Creative Cities Convention in Bristol, outlines BBC Studios NHU’s ground-breaking global legacy and how it has acted as a powerful catalyst for growth in the city’s production sector. It also delves into the economic impact of the BBC’s wider commissioning strategy, as well as the importance of BBC Studios and the indie sector in Bristol.

The NHU (now BBC Studios NHU) has been producing world-leading natural history programming from the heart of Bristol for 67 years, with programmes like the award-winning Planet Earth III, Frozen Planet II, Dynasties II, and Mammals, which is currently airing on BBC One.

Other iconic BBC brands that currently call the city home include Countryfile, Antiques Roadshow, The Outlaws and Gardeners’ World. Powerful network radio is also made in the region, such as BBC Radio 6 Music’s The Huey Show, our Arts and Rural Affairs programming (The Food Programme, Farming Today, Any Questions) and BBC Audio Features.

Bristol’s creative sector rapidly grew by 74% between 2015 and 2020, thanks in part to “the presence of a major broadcaster [the BBC]” in the region, according to the academics at the University of the West of England, Bristol (UWE Bristol).

The BBC is the largest employer within Bristol’s TV and film industry – accounting for 45% of production section roles in 2022. The BBC is a significant player in the region’s production sector, which has seen its workforce grow by 24.5% since 2017. BBC Studios also has part of its Factual Entertainment division based in the city, which produces some of the BBC’s most-loved shows including Antiques Roadshow, Countryfile and more.

Over 75% of BBC natural history commissions, that aired between 2019 to 2022, attracted inward investment. This means that, over that period, for every £1 the BBC Public Service invested, £1.86 was invested by a third party – thanks in part to BBC Studios NHU’s attractive legacy in Bristol.

Natural History programmes create significant economic value for the Bristol region. BBC Studios NHU’s BAFTA nominated The Green Planet (2022), which was filmed internationally in 27 different countries between 2019 and 2022, contributed £7.4m Gross Value Added (GVA) for the UK’s economy. The majority will have benefited Bristol, as a budget was spent in Bristol on BBC Studios NHU’s production staff and local supply chain – supporting over 50 full-time equivalent jobs in the UK.

Similarly, the landmark series Wild Isles (2023), also produced in Bristol by Silverback Films and filmed in more than 145 different locations across the UK, generated estimated £9.0m GVA for the UK economy and supported over 80 full-time equivalent jobs, during its 3-year production.

This does not include wider social value generated by natural history programming that can increase wellbeing and encourage positive behaviour change amongst audiences and wider society, which is estimated at £134m.

The report also outlines how BBC Studios work with external partners, like Bristol City Council and UWE Bristol, to develop local talent and attract new talent into the region. For example, UWE Bristol’s MA in Wildlife Filmmaking, which was co-designed and is accredited by BBC Studios NHU, is immensely successful with 94% of its graduates finding employment each year. Around 32% of this same group (between 2016 and 2023) have since gone on to work at BBC Studios NHU or in other BBC roles – setting up a clear pipeline for future talent.

The BBC is also in the process of rebranding its “end cards” to better showcase the locations our programmes are filmed in – including those in Bristol and the West. The redesign includes a map of the whole of the UK with key filming locations highlighted, to better reflect Bristol’s creative contribution, and that of BBC Studios NHU.

Jonny Keeling, head of BBC Studios Natural History Unit, said: “Bristol is home to the best wildlife filmmakers in the world. It’s the global hub of natural history production and programmes produced here have reached hundreds of millions of people in all corners of the planet.

“Quite simply, content made in Bristol has inspired a global audience to love and understand the natural world; it’s transformed the way an entire generation view and interact with the nature.”

Steph Marshall, BBC senior head of content production for the West and South West, said: “Bristol is an important part of the BBC’s global mission, to inform, entertain and engage for the digital age. The BBC Studios Natural History Unit in the city has achieved ground-breaking technological innovation, unearthed new discoveries, and set the gold standard for all-natural history programming worldwide. Bristol rightfully deserves its reputation as a leader in the industry, and this report proves the BBC’s passion to further boost production outside London”.