While headlines surrounding the BBC’s overall Annual Report are dominated by matters of management and governance, its commercial arm BBC Worldwide has reported what it describes as a “solid performance” in a challenging economic climate.
In the 12 months to 31 March 2013, the company reported a 1 per cent rise in headline profit to £156 million (2011/12: £155m).Profit before tax, excluding gains and losses on disposals, of £125 million (2011/12: £104m) was up 21 per cent. The company grew headline sales by 3 per cent to £1.116 billion (2011/12: £1.085bn).
BBC Worldwide exists to support the BBC public service mission and to maximise profits on its behalf. This year, BBC Worldwide returned £156 million (2011/12: £216m) to the BBC, bringing total returns to the BBC to over £1 billion since 2007. Returns are down 28 per cent since 2011/12. However, last year’s returns included a £73 million one-off dividend relating to the sale of BBC Magazines. Returns for 2012/13 increased by 9 per cent excluding these one-off proceeds.
BBC Worldwide’s 34 branded international channels have continued to drive revenues, through launching new operations, widening distribution and increasing advertising sales. Programme sales and distribution also continued to be a formidable source of profit, and passed the £300 million revenue mark for the first time.
Announcing the results, Tim Davie, Chief Executive of BBC Worldwide and Director, Global, said: “BBC Worldwide’s performance has remained very robust despite the economic challenges facing the media sector, with particular growth in programme sales and our international channels. 2013/14 will be a transformational year for the company with a re-focused strategy that maximises opportunities presented by new markets and technology. This will ensure BBC Worldwide remains a world-class content company that inspires audiences around the world and helps build the reputation and the commercial success of the global BBC.”
“In 2012/13, we continued to invest in content enabling the BBC and the UK independent sector to create programmes that rival the very best in the world.”
BBC Worldwide invested £176million in content in 2012/13. Investment in distribution rights was £104 million, of which £74 million was into BBC commissions. £91 million was returned to independent rights holders through upfront rights investment, profit share and royalties.
Programme sales and distribution had revenues of £312 million with particular growth in Europe and the first full year impact of Video on Demand (VoD) sales – and BBC Worldwide Showcase 2013 attracted a record 700 international buyers to the Liverpool-based annual sales event.
Top selling programmes this year included Africa (sold to 195 territories), Top Gear USA (sold to 174 territories), Ripper Street and Parade’s End (each to over 120 territories).
The format of The Great Bake Off now has 13 international commissions and Dancing with the Stars (the international version of Strictly Come Dancing) has sold 46 local versions.
BBC Worldwide’s focus has remained on growing its global branded channels to provide an international platform for the best of British creativity – driving exports and showcasing the BBC, the UK’s creative industries and ‘brand Britain’ overseas.
BBC Worldwide has 406 million subscriber homes to its TV channels around the world (up from 356m in 2011/12).
The BBC America channel grew its reach to 81 million homes (from 77m in 2011/12).
There were 15 new launches of BBC Worldwide’s channel brands in the year, including for the first time, channels in Brazil, Burma and Cambodia.
The company continues to bring international audiences together through global viewing events, such as live coverage of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, Planet Earth Live and global Top Gear screenings just days after UK transmission.
In April 2013, the business was restructured around geographical markets to ensure future growth in international markets.