Research carried out by informitv for a European Commission report shows how important the United Kingdom is to the international distribution of television channels across the European Union. Of 912 distinct broadcasters in 11 sample countries, 279 were established in the United Kingdom, 198 of which also targeted other countries. The impact of any exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union on the distribution of television services remains to be assessed.

The research surveyed the availability of television channels through services available in a sample of European Union countries: Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Spain, France, Italy, Hungary, Netherlands, Poland, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

Across the 11 sample countries there were 1,612 international, national or regional channels established in the United Kingdom, compared to 512 in France, 383 in Italy and 371 in Germany.

However, there were 696 channels available through service providers in the United Kingdom, compared to 809 in France, 576 in Germany and 491 in Italy.

Comparing channels established by country with their availability through service providers in the 11 sample countries, only the United Kingdom was a net exporter of channels overall, with a contribution of 916 channels. The United Kingdom was also the leading exporter of free to air channels, contributing a total of 188.

Among the other ten countries there was an average net import of 226 channels per country.

The United Kingdom evidently originates more channels than are generally available to viewers in the country. This is because London is the established base for many international broadcasters providing services to other European countries.

Of 912 distinct broadcasters in the 11 sample countries, 279 broadcasters were established in the United Kingdom, followed by 151 in France, 112 in Italy and 102 in Germany. The United Kingdom had the most broadcasters that also targeted other countries, with 198, followed by Germany and France with 63 each, and Italy with 52.

Broadcasters established in 11 sample EU countries, 2015. Source: European Audiovisual Observatory MAVISE / informitv analysis.

Users of service providers in the United Kingdom had the fewest channels available established in one of the other 10 sample countries, with just 31 available, while Ireland had 454 channels from one of the other countries available.

The research showed that while there is an international market in pay channels, there is a much lower level of international distribution between these countries for free channels.

While there are over 1,200 channels potentially available free-to-air via direct-to-home broadcasts via SES or Eutelsat satellites, most viewers appear to prefer the convenience of a packaged offering from a service provider.

The research was commissioned to evaluate the operation of the European satellite and cable directive and assess its possible extension. It was used as part of the impact assessment for a proposed review of copyright rules in Europe.

The potential impact of any exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union with respect to television services, like many things, remains unclear.

The report, Survey and data gathering to support the evaluation of the Satellite and Cable Directive 93/83/EEC and assessment of its possible extension, is published by the European Commision.