Opportunities in Asia: The mission to keep creative industries thriving after Brexit

UK creativity will thrive after Brexit – that’s the determined stance of those working in the sector.

The industry, which includes film and television, theatre, video games and fashion, is worth £84bn to the British economy. Many of these areas have relied heavily on EU funding and the freedom to move between countries but in light of the EU Referendum, work is underway to ensure the creative sector doesn’t suffer.

The creative sector is one of five being prioritised by the government in its Industrial Strategy Green Paper in a bid to address the risks to long-term growth as the UK moves towards exiting the EU.

But it’s not just the government that’s seeking to protect the creative sector, the industry is taking matters into its own hands.

Looking to other corners of the globe for the opportunity Brexit may bring, Amanda Groom, managing director for The Bridge, a firm which develops TV and film co-production opportunities between the UK and Asia, said she was finding a huge hunger for UK creative talent.

“There are enormous, as yet untapped opportunities for co-production with Asia,” she said. “The scale and demographics of Asian audiences mean the TV and film markets there are too big to ignore. The reverrance with which British creatives are held means that quite often, it’s  pushing against an open door.”


Tapping into new audiences

Jack Porteous, assistant director of retail and the creative industries for the China-Britain Business Council, said there was an emergence of a new audience with an appetite for quality content.

He said: “It's predicted by the Economist Intelligence Unit that China’s base of middle-class consumers will more than treble over the next 15 years from 132 million to 480 million by 2030. So the scale of the opportunity is eye-watering.”

Jack says the UK has an excellent reputation for quality and that comes from a long and well-known history of being a pioneer in the creative industries.

He added: “Big-ticket exports like Downton Abbey and Harry Potter pave the way but they also lead the charge for brand Britain more broadly, as Chinese consumers look beyond the mainstream to look for niche products and experiences to stand out from the crowd.”

Jason Keiles is the managing director of Atonik Digital, a UK-based advisory firm that supports companies in entering emerging markets. He believes China will become increasingly important to the UK and pointed to ITV announcing it was expanding its co-production ties with a Chinese production house as one example of this.

“With China representing the world’s largest media market, and with Chinese audiences having a particular affinity for 'brand UK' and British Culture, Brexit may indeed be the trigger necessary for the UK creative sector to pivot towards the East,” he said.

He added: “This opportunity, however, must be tempered by the fact that media in China is tightly controlled and censored, although the resulting limitations can be mitigated by carefully structuring partnerships with local companies.”

Amanda agreed Asia presents challenges and said not all companies take to co-production easily, because this market requires a change in mindset from many UK creatives.

“You cannot go into Asia saying everything should be done as we like it in this terribly British way,” she said. “It does require some adapting and negotiating. It’s much more about building long-term relationships rather than a single project.”

Following the Brexit vote, British businesses face the challenge of turning a profit and growing revenues despite the decline in the pound making it potentially more costly to buy from abroad. It's also unknown what our trading relationship and freedom of movement with the EU will be once the UK officially leaves. This means that businesses in all industries must consider how they will be affected and take steps to minimise risk and maximise return.

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