BBC Worldwide – the commercial arm of the Corporation – has revealed its financial results for 2016/17, showing an increase in both headline sales and headline profits, and sustaining cash returns to the BBC above £200 million (€226m) for a third successive year.
Tim Davie, CEO of BBC Worldwide and Director, Global, said: “By concentrating our efforts around core areas of growth and being bold in our transformation ambition, BBC Worldwide has delivered another strong year of results. Ever-closer relationships with producers, driving excellent content, along with acute customer focus, creative deal-making and strategic partnerships, are together enabling us to navigate the rapid shifts in the markets where we operate.
“We begin the new year facing a complex set of conditions. The outlook remains unpredictable, but demand so far has largely held up well overall. We are actively evolving our company to stay ahead of market developments. We have an exciting slate – including Blue Planet II, Top of the Lake 2 and McMafia – backed by strong relationships with producers and customers alike. We believe these are robust reasons to give our shareholder, partners and stakeholders confidence in our future prospects.”
Headline sales of £1.0599 billion [€1.1977bn] (2015/16: £1.0294bn) and headline profit of £157.3 million (2015/16: £133.8m) were up 3.0 per cent and 17.6 per cent respectively. Organic headline profit growth was 6.4 per cent and all four regional segments reported growth in headline profit. These results reflect good Content Sales, with sales to SVoD services remaining buoyant; an excellent performance from Branded Services, including the UKTV and BBC AMERICA channel JVs; and beneficial foreign exchange movements.
Strong demand from VoD clients helped BBC Worldwide pass its internal revenue target of £400 million in content sales one year early, at £422.4 million (2015/16: £384.2m), up 9.9 per cent, maintaining its position as the leading global distributor outside the US studios.
The year saw further expansion of BBC brands, along with strong joint venture performances in the UK and US. Factual brand BBC Earth benefited from the return of Planet Earth II around the world. In Canada, the series marked BBC Earth’s debut in the market, in partnership with Blue Ant Media, and delivered the highest rating of any of its channels over the last six years. BBC Earth also launched in India, with Sony Pictures Network, Serbia and Bosnia. BBC First, in scripted, led a portfolio of high-performing channels in Australia, performed well in Benelux, and debuted on four third-party VoD platforms in Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong. CBeebies launched in East Africa, the Middle East, North Africa and Taiwan, and reached agreement for carriage on digital platform iQIYI in China. During the year, BBC Worldwide took the decision to close its channels in Latin America, in order to concentrate on programme and format sales in the region, building on recent successes including War & Peace on Globo and Planet Earth II and Top Gear on Discovery.
BBC AMERICA, in its second full year of JV partnership with AMC Networks, posted a 12th straight year of primetime growth – the only US cable channel to achieve this in the year. Stand-out content on the channel included Planet Earth II, the most-watched nature episode in the US in five years; the Doctor Who Christmas special, its top-rated programme in the year; and originals Orphan Black and Dirk Gently. Meanwhile UKTV produced another excellent set of results, with growth in SOCI, revenue and profit, driven by a core of BBC content alongside UKTV original programming.
The year has seen further progress on BBC Wordwide’s direct-to-consumer digital approach of strategic partnerships in key markets. It launched a new TV Everywhere app, BBC Player, in partnership with platforms in Singapore and Malaysia, and struck a partnership with ITV plc to create SVoD service BritBox, which launched in March 2017 in the US. Offering the most comprehensive selection of British programming available in the market, its wealth of titles includes classic Doctor Who, Emmerdale Farm and EastEnders.
Shortly after year-end, BBC Worldwide announced the closure of UK download service BBC Store, as the overall level of demand was not strong enough to underpin a sustainable business over the long term.