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BBC Worldwide Ltd.
Type Private subsidiary
Predecessor BBC Enterprises Ltd.
Founded 1995
Headquarters London, United Kingdom
Area served Worldwide
Key people Robert Webb QC
John Smith
(Chief Executive)
Mike Phillips
(Deputy Chief Executive)
Industry Broadcasting
Parent BBC

BBC Worldwide Limited is the wholly owned commercial subsidiary of the British Broadcasting Corporation, formed out of a restructuring of its predecessor BBC Enterprises in 1995. In the year to 31 March 2009 it made a profit of £86m on a turnover of £1.04bn, mainly affected by the administration of Woolworths Group with which BBC Worldwide has joint ownership of 2 Entertain.[1] The company had made a profit of £118m on a turnover of £916m in the previous financial year.[2]



Worldwide is responsible for a wide range of commercial activities, primarily connected in some way with the output and public purposes of the main BBC. The company's work includes investment in television production. BBC Worldwide will often provide additional budget for BBC productions in return for various commercial rights to the programmes, and has also done so for non-BBC programmes as well, such as the Red Production Company drama Mine All Mine for the BBC's rival ITV network in 2004. In 2006, a Content & Production business, headed by former BBC controller of entertainment Wayne Garvie, was formed to produce local versions of BBC formats overseas (maximising revenues by receiving a production fee from the local broadcaster as well as a sum from selling the initial re-versioning rights). BBC Worldwide has also, since, taken a 25% stake in Left Bank Pictures, a newly-formed independent film & TV production company, owned and run by former ITV Productions controller of comedy and drama Andy Harries,[3] and a 25% stake in Cliffhanger Productions – an independent production company that focuses on returning drama for UK networks.[4]

Other major areas of business include international programming sales and distribution, foreign and domestic satellite and cable television channels (such as UKTV in the UK, BBC America in the United States and BBC Entertainment in India), book publishing (through Random House), magazine publishing (most famously the Radio Times), VHS and DVD releases (through 2 entertain), spoken word and music audio products, CD-ROMs, videogames, library footage sales via the BBC Motion Gallery and its website BBC Motion Gallery, magazine subscription fulfilment, exhibitions, and live events such as CBeebies Live.

These commercial activities allow BBC Worldwide to return profits and dividends to the BBC to re-invest in public service programming. In 2007/08 BBC Worldwide invested £75.1m in in-house and independent programmes commissioned by the BBC. However, the BBC has often been criticised for the amount of money it makes from BBC Worldwide. Some commercial rivals protest at the advantage the company has from being associated with and being able to exploit the programme catalogue and resources of the BBC in order to provide its goods and services.[5]

Sales, acquisitions and mergers

Prior to the Charter renewal in 2007, there was much speculation that the BBC might sell off at least some of Worldwide's assets, such as the magazine publishing arm (the third largest in the UK), to appease these criticisms and make a large profit from the sale in the process. However, a review of the BBC's commercial activities in 2004 concluded that this was not as advantageous as keeping the business and driving it harder. Instead, some changes to its remit, focus, structure and governance were made, e.g. that it would only publish titles in the UK linked to BBC programmes or key genres. As a result, BBC Worldwide sold eve magazine to Haymarket Group in 2005.[6] In 2006, the sell-off of certain businesses which were no longer core continued with the sale of BBC Books to publisher Random House.[7]

In July 2004, it was announced that Worldwide's DVD release company, BBC Video, which had been releasing BBC programmes on the format and previously on videotape since the early 1980s, was to be merged with VCI, a video release company controlled by Woolworths Group plc. The new company created, 2 entertain Ltd, was controlled 60% by Worldwide and 40% by Woolworths Group plc. This created the sixth biggest video company in the UK market, and the largest British-owned brand. Worldwide retained the rights in all the BBC output released by the new company. As of November 2008, Woolworths, which came into financial difficulties in the latter half of that year, confirmed that it was negotiating a deal to sell the remaining share of the company to Worldwide.[8]

In January 2009 it was announced that Ofcom had put forward the recommendation that Channel 4 merge with either the commercial network Five or BBC Worldwide. Channel 4's preferred option of a partnership with the latter was confirmed by chief executive Andy Duncan, who added: "We're in discussions with BBC Worldwide at the moment and they're really very exciting."[9]

See also


  1. ^ "BBC - Annual Report and Accounts 2008/09 - BBC Executive: financial overview". BBC Executive. 2008/09. Retrieved 10 September 2009.  
  2. ^ "About BBC Worldwide". BBC Worldwide. 2007/08. Retrieved 29 March 2009.  
  3. ^ "BBC Worldwide takes stake in Andy Harries' Left Bank". Screen Daily. 1 June 2007. Retrieved 10 September 2009.  
  4. ^ "BBC Worldwide buys into Cliffhanger". BBC Press Office. 22 November 2007. Retrieved 10 September 2009.  
  5. ^ "About BBC Worldwide". BBC Worldwide. 2008/09. Retrieved 10 September 2009.  
  6. ^ BBC Worldwide announces sale of eve magazine to Haymarket BBC Press Office. 11 January 2005
  7. ^ The Random House Group acquires majority shareholding in BBC Books Random House Group/BBC Worldwide Press Office. 22 June 2006
  8. ^ "Woolworths suspends share trading". BBC News. 2008-11-26. Retrieved 2008-11-26.  
  9. ^ "Channel 4 'must form partnership'". BBC News. 21 January 2009. Retrieved 2009-03-29. "Channel 4 should become part of a bigger organisation through a merger or partnerships, Ofcom has recommended."  

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