BBC holds tight to Worldwide

Privatization of BBC Worldwide was considered and dismissed during a BBC review, but joint venture partnerships look promising.
July 19, 2001

Years after the U.K. government’s Davis Committee (headed by Gavin Davis, now a member of BBC’s board of governors) first proposed selling BBC Worldwide, the pubcaster’s profitable sales division, the Beeb again considered the option during a recent review. The conclusion now was the same as it was then: no go.

BBC director-general Greg Dyke stated, ‘Selling Worldwide could mean the BBC losing control of its prime assets – its brands and its programs – to a third party, which would not be in the interests of license payers.’ And proving that the Beeb is a pubcaster capable of thinking like a commercial net, he added, ‘Global producers like Disney and Fox would never contemplate selling all rights to characters and films to someone else, why would the BBC?’

The upshot of the review was to favor partnerships for Worldwide, along the lines of existing joint venture agreements with Discovery and Flextech, and recent deal with German prodco Me, Myself and Eye. A BBC spokesperson notes, ‘Channels have always been a very positive area of partnership for us, but we’re not ruling out any particular sector.’ Along with program sales, Worldwide also oversees publishing (including books, magazines, audio, video, internet and interactive) and merchandising.

Worldwide has also been given a new target of £20 million (US$28.3 million) in cost saving as a result of the review. ‘That’s actually over a two or three year period,’ the BBC spokesperson explains. ‘During our current financial year, we’re looking at delivering savings of £12 million (US$17 million)… It’s something we’ve planned for, largely in the area of economies of scale and streamlining our business.’ The goal is to reallocate the money to programming.

In the BBC’s latest annual report (released July 4), BBC Worldwide reported sales of £587 million (US$833.4 million) and cashflow amounting to £96 million (US$136.3 million) back to the pubcaster.

About The Author
Managing editor with realscreen publication, an international print and online magazine that covers the non-fiction film and television industries. Darah is an award-winning journalist who has spent over two decades covering a wide range of issues from real estate and urban development to immigration, politics and human rights, primarily with The Vancouver Sun. Prior to joining realscreen, she was editor of Stream Daily, realscreen's sister publication covering the dynamic global digital video industry. She also served a stint as a war reporter in Afghanistan for television and print, and was a national business blogger with Yahoo Canada.