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BBC Worldwide ‘record returns’ to the BBC

BBC Worldwide, the Corporation’s commercial arm, has published its 2014/15 Annual Review, announcing stable headline results, record returns to the BBC and continuing investment and transformation plans for the business.

Results are significantly impacted by the deal struck in October 2014 to form an equity partnership with AMC Networks for BBC AMERICA, making the channel, which delivered a 10th consecutive year of ratings growth, part of a larger portfolio with a shared emphasis on premium quality editorial. Consequently 2014/15 revenue does not include BBC AMERICA for the majority of the second half of the year. This is the major factor in headline sales being down 3.9 per cent to £1,001.8m (2013/14: £1,042.3m) and headline profit down 11.9 per cent to £138.6m (2013/14: £157.4m). Adjusting for this, headline sales and profit on ongoing operations were up 0.4 per cent to £948.1 million (2013/14: £944.5m) and 4.1 per cent to £127.2 million (2013/14: £122.2m), respectively. Foreign exchange movements in the year reduced headline sales by £19.5 million and headline profit by £3.2 million.

Tim Davie, Chief Executive, BBC Worldwide and Director, Global said: “Through focusing on transformation and investment in 2014/15 BBC Worldwide delivered a solid performance, including record returns to our parent, the BBC, which remains our primary objective. Mindful of the ever-changing and competitive marketplace in which we operate we made a number of decisions to secure our future performance. This included entering into a significant partnership with AMC Networks for BBC AMERICA, which can be seen in our results this year.”

“We are proud to have launched our three genre brands BBC First, BBC Brit and BBC Earth in three key markets and delivered BBC Store, which will launch in the coming months in the UK. Our results announced today reflect these decisions as well as highlighting our ongoing ambition to deliver the highest quality content to our audiences and our ambitions to continue to support creative talent across the UK independent community.”

Returns to the BBC:

Returns to the BBC grew significantly to £226.5 million, up 30.3 per cent (2013/14: £173.8m), underpinned by a solid operating performance and the proceeds of the partial disposal of BBC AMERICA. This is the equivalent of 12.6 per cent of BBC Television’s content spend, up from 10.1 per cent in the previous year. Investment in BBC commissioned content was up 6.2 per cent to £94.4 million (2013/14: £88.9m) and supported the commission of titles such as The Hunt, 9 Months That Made You, War and Peace and SS-GB. BBC Director-General and Chairman of BBC Worldwide, Tony Hall, also announced that this year marked the first of a five year plan to generate around £1 billion in returns to the BBC, an increase of almost one quarter on the previous five years, reflecting the BBC’s determination to extract the maximum sustainable future contribution from commercial subsidiaries.

Increased support for the UK creative industries:

Alongside the company’s ongoing support for its parent, the year also witnessed a further increase in its commitment to the UK’s wider creative industries. This included showcasing BBC and UK independent content across the globe, delivering a 3.2 per cent increase in TV sales, which are largely exports, to £345.3 million (2013/14: £334.6m). BBC Worldwide continued to represent over 250 UK independent producers, returning £113.1 million to the sector, a 2.9 per cent decrease on £116.4 million in the previous year. In the year, BBC Worldwide made a number of strategic investments in emerging, high quality UK production houses, including Lookout Point, Curve Media, King Bert, Red Planet and Cuba Pictures.

Delivering on strategy:

BBC Worldwide is also reporting good progress on its three-pronged strategy, first set out in October 2013.

Premium content:

Premium content investment delivered a rich mix of titles, including drama – which accounted for almost half of total investment in the year. Top-selling titles were Doctor Who, Top Gear, Orphan Black, Life Story, The Musketeers, Atlantis, Call the Midwife, Ripper Street, Sherlock and The Honourable Woman.

BBC Worldwide’s production arms saw increased appetite for popular UK formats, with notable success in France, with revenue up by over 50 per cent and new and returning commissions including Dancing with the Stars, The Weakest Link and Bake Off. At year-end the Bake Off format had been licensed to 19 countries, this year welcoming Turkey and Israel. Dancing with the Stars in the USA celebrated its 10th anniversary and 20th series, while local versions of Top Gear launched in France and China.

Global brands:

BBCWW launched three new genre brands in the year. Drama channel BBC First debuted in Australia in August on Foxtel’s subscription platform, delivering its most successful non-sport channel launch in a decade. Factual entertainment BBC Brit and premium factual BBC Earth made their linear debuts in Poland in February, with both channels outperforming established rivals and breaking into the top three in their competitive sets. The Nordics became the second market for BBC Brit and BBC Earth post year-end, followed by the launch of BBC Earth in Turkey and Central and Eastern Europe. Elsewhere BBC First made its European debut in the Netherlands in May. BBC Earth also became the first of the three new brands to make its online debut, on both BBC.com and BBC.co.uk, generating an average of 3.1 million unique browsers since launch in September.

Beyond channel launches, BBC Worldwide expanded audiences’ enjoyment of key BBC brands. New initiatives included the launch of CBeebies Land at Alton Towers, the initial roll-out of CBeebies English language learning centres in China as well as a 12-day global tour for series eight of Doctor Who, with the 12th Doctor and companion visiting South Korea, Australia, USA, Mexico and Brazil.

Digital transformation:

Work commenced on BBC Store, the download to keep service which will launch this autumn, offering UK audiences access to a wealth of content, building to around 10,000 hours at launch. Elsewhere, partnerships with fledging digital services were struck with the likes of Stan. and Lightbox in Australia – where digital sales were up fourfold – and the first VoD deals were secured in Africa and Poland. Established relationships with Hulu and Netflix in the USA contributed to digital sales growth of 54.1 per cent, surpassing linear TV sales in the region for the first time.

Davie concluded: “We are mindful of the challenges ahead both for the BBC and the wider market. As we face these, our plan remains to execute our strategy – focusing on premium content, global brands and digital transformation – in order to keep building the market for British TV around the world while supporting those shows that UK audiences love at home.”

Financial Results

  • Record returns to the BBC, up almost a third to £226.5 million; pledge to return around £1 billion in five years from 2014/15, an increase of almost one quarter on previous five years

  • Headline profit down 11.9 per cent to £138.6 million, due to the impact of part-sale of BBC AMERICA to AMC Networks; headline profit on ongoing operations up 4.1 per cent to £127.2 million

  • Statutory profit before tax of £223.8 million, up 77.3 per cent, including £115.9 million profit on BBC AMERICA venture

Business Highlights

  • Doctor Who S8 was the top selling programme of the year, licensed to 189 territories

  • BBC First, BBC Earth and BBC Brit launched in three markets in the year

  • Venture with AMC Networks paves the way for future growth and reach for BBC AMERICA

  • BBC.com continued to attract record numbers of unique browsers: up 8.3 per cent, with a peak of 100.8 million

Creative Industries Highlights

  • Strong return to UK creative industries, with largest sales and distribution business in Europe delivering growth across finished programme and format sales

  • Investment in BBC programmes from BBC Production and independents increased by 6.2 per cent to £94.4 million

  • Total returns to the independent production sector of £113.1 million

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