BBC Worldwide (BBCWW), the commercial arm of the BBC, has reported 5% growth in headline sales for 2011-12, to £1.085 billion (approximately US$1.7 billion), with international sales as a percentage of the total rising to 64%, up 9% from 2010/11.
Top-selling program brands international for BBCWW for the year ended March 31, 2012 were all BBC commissions and included Top Gear, Frozen Planet, Planet Earth and Natural World.
Headline profit for the company rose by 8%, from £144 million in 2010/11 to £155 million. Figures exclude the BBC Magazine titles sold and licensed in the year.
In terms of international sales, the move to focus on growth in English-speaking markets – particularly the U.S. and Australia – paid off, with the regions proving to be BBCWW’s biggest growth markets over the course of the year, delivering growth of 15% and 9% respectively.
The company said that while those markets will remain vital points of concentration, it is currently “in the process of developing market growth strategies for countries in Asia, Western Europe, Central and Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa (CEEMEA) and Latin America, informed by market knowledge and insight from senior local recruits.”
While the company had set a target in 2007 of having two-thirds of its revenue generated from outside of the UK by 2012, it said that growth in the UK market has made it necessary to move that target to 2013.
The company also reported strong results for its other strategic objectives, such as driving digital growth (sales from digital activities are now at 13% of total net sales); growing the scale of its channels business (headline sales for this sector rose by 14%); increasing investment in content (over the last year, the company invested £98.6m in distribution rights and licensed 36 formats in 43 countries around the world); and developing more direct connections with consumers (with an aim to double the tickets sold to BBC Worldwide events this year).
Within the review, the company also made note of its backing of two British indies over the course of the past year, Burning Bright Productions Limited and Slim Film & TV Limited, as evidence of its increased investment in new content.
“We are proud of the record financial contribution we made to the BBC in addition to our role in championing UK shows, brands and talent around the world,” said BBC Worldwide chief executive John Smith. “These results have enabled BBC Worldwide to return £216m to the BBC, supporting development of world-class, original content in the context of a tighter license fee. BBC Worldwide also distributed programs and formats produced by more than 200 UK independent producers in the year. I am proud of the unique role we play in helping our sectors of the UK creative industries to expand through exports.”
The report was released today, in conjunction with the BBC’s annual report . Within it, the public broadcaster reported that it had exceeded its target to cut the number of senior managers by a fifth and the senior manager pay roll by a quarter, contributing to efficiency savings of £499 million. Going forward, according to BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten, the plan is to go further, “including capping the wages of the highest earners.”
The report also showed a decrease in overall content spend, down to £2.4 billion from £2.5 billion the year prior.
“One of our main priorities is ensuring the BBC produces genuinely distinctive programs, and progress has been made here, although there is more to do,” said Lord Patten when unveiling the report. “We have also continued to push hard on value for money, encouraging the BBC to continue to drive down senior management pay and draw up a plan for living in more financially constrained times.
“George Entwistle becomes the 15th director-general this autumn, and he inherits a BBC which I believe is in a strong position financially and editorially,” he continued. “I look forward to working with him to ensure the required savings are delivered without compromising the quality and distinctiveness audiences quite rightly expect from the BBC.”
Audience appreciation (AI) rose for most BBC output in 2011/12, with the television AI score rising from 82 for 2010/11 to 83. Overall AI scores for factual programming in particular rose to 83.7 from 82 in 2010/11.
Frozen Planet, watched by 28 million people, was heralded as a highlight for a year in which more than 37 million people watched BBC factual programming. Factual output in terms of hours across the BBC’s four TV channels rose across the board, while output for music and arts programming saw small declines except for BBC Three, which marked a small rise in hours, from 70 in 2010/11 to 79 in 2011/12.