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BBC to merge commercial entities

The BBC is to create a new single commercial organisation following the merger of BBC Worldwide and BBC Studios from April 2018.

BBC Worldwide started life selling BBC programmes to international broadcasters and operating a number of BBC channels around the world (except BBC World News). Profits from the business provide the BBC with an additional income stream to supplement licence fee revenue. BBC Studios is the BBC's production arm which launched as a separate commercial entity in April 2017.

The merged entity will be called BBC Studios.

Explaining the rationale behind the change, the BBC said that the new organisational structure will "bring the BBC into line with the rest of the industry, integrating programme production, sales and distribution in a single entity."

In a statement it said it would ensure the BBC is best placed to succeed both creatively and commercially and will better serve licence fee payers by:
  • Creating a unified business with a single business plan and combined operating model better placed to support the full range of the UK’s creative talent, producing high quality, distinctive UK content in bases across the country.
  • Maximising the intellectual property value of BBC programming for the benefit of UK licence fee payers.
  • Supporting the UK creative economy by distributing British content as a cultural export and source of global influence.

The move will see the range of commercial activities already carried out by BBC Worldwide - including content financing, sales and commercial channels - and BBC Studios - the BBC’s main programme production arm - brought together in the simplified organisation with a single business plan and combined operating model. While BBC Studios and BBC Worldwide already work together closely - such as on current TV hit Blue Planet II which is produced by BBC Studios but which is over three quarters funded by BBC Worldwide and partners - joining forces will allow them to operate more simply and efficiently. The BBC said all of the major established UK industry players integrate their programme production and distribution in this way.

BBC Worldwide has a track record in financing and commercially exploiting British IP across numerous markets and platforms, returning almost £1bn to the BBC in the past five years, to be reinvested into programmes for BBC audiences in the UK. It has invested in, marketed and distributed global hits from BBC Studios, including Planet Earth II, winner of the Outstanding Documentary Series Emmy in 2017, sold to 233 territories; Doctor Who, sold to 239 territories, Top Gear, sold to 241 and Strictly Come Dancing, internationally licensed 54 times as Dancing with the Stars.

BBC Director-General Tony Hall said:
“In a fast-changing TV industry, securing the future success of the BBC is vital.
“Creating a single BBC Studios will bring the BBC in line with the industry, be simpler and more efficient. It will help ensure that licence fee payers in the UK continue to receive outstanding British programmes which reflect British lives, long into the future.
“It will also ensure the BBC can continue to play its crucial role in supporting the successful UK creative economy.”

The new BBC Studios will be led by Chief Executive Officer Tim Davie and Chief Creative Officer Mark Linsey.