Facing ever increasing competition from new streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon, the BBC has announced it will merge BBC Studios and BBC Worldwide to form a single commercial organisation, to be called BBC Studios.
Operating under the BBC Studios name, the move is being seen as the broadcaster’s latest bid to generate more revenue from shows such as Doctor Who, Top Gear and Strictly Come Dancing.
The merger comes at a time of an increasingly competitive and global market for production and distribution, and the BBC says this new organisational structure will bring it into line with the rest of the industry, integrating programme production, sales and distribution in a single entity.
BBC Worldwide’s vision has been to build the BBC’s brands, audiences, commercial returns and reputation across the world, achieved through investing in, commercialising and showcasing content from the BBC around the world, in a way that is consistent with BBC standards and values. The business also champions British creativity globally.
BBC Studios, the BBC’s existing production arm, launched as a commercial subsidiary in April 2017 and makes over 2,000 hours of programming a year. In 2016/17 BBC Worldwide, which handles the licensing of shows such as Doctor Who to Panini and Titan Comics, generated headline profits of £157.3m and headline sales of £1,059.9m and returned £210.5m to the BBC. The new, integrated, company will continue to invest in third party production companies and distribute non-BBC content.
Following the restructure, the combined companies will employ approximately 3,000 permanent staff, along with six production bases in the UK, a further seven wholly-owned and production partnerships internationally, and operations in a total of 22 markets.
The BBC says 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, joining forces will allow them to operate more simply and efficiently. All of the major established UK industry players integrate their programme production and distribution in this way.
“The TV industry has been changing fast and major global players are investing vast sums in content – but not primarily in British content reflecting British lives,” the BBC states. “Recent research by consultants Mediatique earlier this month forecast that spending on British programming could fall in real terms by £500m over the next decade – posing a real risk to the volume and breadth of British content available, with a potentially damaging impact on distinctiveness, risk-taking and innovation. A successful new BBC Studios will be better placed to make the investments others will not.
Production arm BBC Studios is internationally recognised for making high-quality British programmes across a broad range of genres and specialisms. Boasting 81 awards so far this year, its output includes the highly acclaimed Blue Planet II, Strictly Come Dancing, Antiques Roadshow, EastEnders, Top Gear, the award-winning drama Three Girls, Louis Theroux’s latest documentary series and Drugsland on BBC Three.
BBC Worldwide has a strong 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.
“In a fast-changing TV industry, securing the future success of the BBC is vital,” feels BBC Director-General Tony Hall.
“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.
Tim Davie says: “Creating one company, in line with market norms, is a natural step in this market.
“The new BBC Studios will be focused on the highest quality British content, underpinning our future financial return to licence fee payers. It will allow us to better serve customers, indie partners and the wider industry, resulting in world-class British productions for audiences in the UK and overseas.
“I am excited about the prospects ahead, and delighted to be part of the new organisation.”
Mark Linsey says: “Bringing BBC Studios and BBC Worldwide together will help secure the BBC’s future and guarantee our unrivalled creativity, risk-taking, quality and range.
“I am so proud of BBC Studios’ programmes – from huge hits like Blue Planet II and Strictly Come Dancing, to the extraordinary Drugsland and Murdered for Being Different on BBC Three, to EastEnders, Mrs Brown’s Boys, Our Girl, Carols from Kings, Antiques Roadshow, Countryfile and Horizon. We cater to every taste and this merger means that will continue for years to come.”