BBC Studios cites pandemic impact as profits fall $41M

BBC Studios’ sales were down 10% for 2020/21 as the producer’s profit dipped 17% – £30 million (US$41 million) — to £151 million in what interim chief Tom Fussell called “an ...
July 7, 2021

BBC Studios’ sales were down 10% for 2020/21 as the producer’s profit dipped 17% – £30 million (US$41 million) — to £151 million in what interim chief Tom Fussell called “an extremely challenging year.”

The commercial arm of British pubcaster the BBC published a summary of its strategic and financial performance Tuesday (July 6).

Overall sales landed at £1.255 billion, down from £1.388 billion in 2019/20, largely due to production pauses in the wake of COVID-19. The decline in profit from £181 million in 2019/20 was partially offset by lower revenues.

Returns to the Beeb, primarily investment in programming, were £137 million (a decrease from £276 million in 2019/20). The studio stated it’s on track to deliver its five-year target of £1.2 billion in returns to the BBC as planned by the end of the next financial year.

Despite a pause in production and ad market disruption affecting both revenues and EBITDA, the studio said it ended the year in a “position of strength,” thanks to “careful control of costs and reduced investment.”

As BBC content went live on Discovery+ and HBO Max, content sales had its second best year ever, though overall revenues were down 9% year on year. Income from consumer products increased 3%, BBC Studios noted, as people turned back to DVDs and downloads during the pandemic.

Fussell said in a statement: “Thanks to a quicker than expected recovery in the global media industry, particularly advertising, along with some careful cost controls, we are in a very strong position to deliver on significant commercial ambition and meet the new target of £1.5 billion set by the BBC over the five years from 21/22.”

Among its noted wins was the launch of BBC Select on Apple TV+ and Britbox. Britbox, a joint venture between BBC Studios and ITV, additionally launched in Australia, and reached 1.7 million subscribers internationally.

Overall, the studio secured 74 commissions for the BBC and 16 for third parties. BBC Studios’ UK production teams made 1,352 hours of content and 232 titles in the year.

Internationally, production teams worked across LA, France, South Africa and Mumbai to make titles including Dancing With The Stars season 29 for ABC; Murder Among the Mormons for Netflix; and Sons of the Soil for Amazon in India.

In November  BBC Studios laid out an on- and off-screen diversity and inclusion commitment for new commissions. A minimum of 20% of on-screen talent and production teams on all new BBC and third-party UK commissions must have a BAME background, a lived experience of disability or be from a low-income background.

The company also launched a sustainability plan with new targets, including a minimum 50% reduction in travel vs pre-pandemic levels and the ambition to achieve carbon net zero by 2030.

BBC Studios’ slate includes landmark natural history series The Green Planet for BBC1 from BBC Studios’ Natural History Unit, narrated by Sir David Attenborough, and dancing/dating format I Like The Way You Move for BBC3, alongside existing brands such as Top Gear. Upcoming titles include David Olusoga’s Forgotten Empire.

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