Press Office

Wednesday 29 Oct 2014

BBC Worldwide Press Releases

BBC Worldwide revenues exceed £1bn for the first time

BBC Worldwide Ltd, the commercial and wholly owned subsidiary of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), today published its Annual Review for 2008/09.

The company saw revenues rise by 9.5% to £1.003.6bn from £916.3m in the 12 months to 31st March 2009, while operating profits declined 12.8% to £102.6m from £117.7m as planned investment impacted the bottom line. The impact of exceptional charges took profit before interest and tax to £85.7m (2007/08: £117.7m).

Underlying profit grew in line with the increase in turnover to well in excess of £150m. BBC Worldwide also delivered increased dividend payments to the BBC of £68.8m (2007/08: £49.4m), which, with increased direct investment in BBC programming and rights, helped lift the overall return to the corporation by around 20% to over £170m.

Announcing the results, John Smith, Chief Executive of BBC Worldwide, said the figures reflected the continued strength of the business – where almost £50m was invested in new initiatives last year – in spite of a severe downturn impacting all parts of the media and entertainment industry.

The company made progress in all of its strategic growth objectives:

  • share of income generated from outside the UK rose from 48.6% to 51.3% of the total (target - two thirds by 2012);
  • revenues from online activity rose from 2.7% to 4.6% (target - 10% by 2012);
  • 15 more BBC-branded channels were launched and TV production capability expanded to New York, Toronto and Paris (target -  fast track channels and production businesses);
  • minority stakes were secured in a number of UK independent companies to provide seed-funding in return for distribution rights and the remaining 80% of Australian joint-venture entertainment channel UK.TV was acquired from partners FOXTEL and Fremantle (target – use acquisitions to help achieve the overall plan).

"BBC Worldwide demonstrated the depth of its businesses and its financial strength in a difficult year for the entire industry by lifting revenues beyond a billion pounds, and we substantially increased our returns to the BBC," he added.

"In spite of volatile conditions and heavy investment in several parts of the business, we remain encouraged by the growth prospects and performance of our core operations and brands around the world."

Etienne de Villiers, Non-executive Chairman of BBC Worldwide, said: "The company is the global showcase for the best of British creative talent. It is an important cog in Britain's creative industries, investing heavily in new production, new businesses and digital extensions of the BBC brand. Over the last four years it has become a major international media player competing on the global stage."

Mark Thompson, Director-General of the BBC, commented: "BBC Worldwide has shown once again what a huge contribution it makes to the entire BBC, with its dividends and overall returns strengthening our ability to reinvest in world class content across multiple platforms – enjoyed by audiences at home and around the globe."

Mr Smith explained that profits at BBC Worldwide had declined due to organic investment and two exceptional items in particular: a write-down associated with Kangaroo – its proposed online video service with ITV and Channel 4 – and a one-time charge related to 2 entertain, the DVD distribution joint venture with Woolworths Group plc.

The exceptional items reflected investment costs at Kangaroo, which was blocked by the Competition Commission, and pension liability at 2 entertain following the collapse of Woolworths.

He said: "We have continued to trade strongly in spite of some challenging market conditions. Our strategy of diversification across business areas and territories, and our continuing investment in new opportunities, especially digital, reflects our confidence in the outlook for BBC Worldwide although trading conditions are likely to remain volatile for the rest of this year and into 2010."

The BBC Worldwide Annual Review will be available online from 12.00 at


BBC Worldwide is the main commercial arm and wholly owned subsidiary of the BBC.
2. The Report and Financial Statements for the year ended 31 March 2009 may be obtained from Companies House ( from 24 July 2009.
3. Information is also available in the BBC’s Annual Report and Accounts published on 14th July 2009.
4. Unless otherwise stated, sales include share of joint-venture sales and profit/(loss) is stated before interest, taxation and exceptional items. Exceptional items include both Group and share of joint-venture exceptionals.

Headline P&L and Divisional Breakdown




% Growth





Operating Profit **








Operating Margin %**




* Including share of joint ventures
** Pre exceptionals




Sales £225.6m – up 23% from £183.8m; Profit £29.6m – up 135% from £12.6m

  • Sales rose by 17.3% in EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa) driven largely by the rollout of BBC-branded channels.
  • Launched 15 new BBC-branded channels and now has 44 channel feeds reaching over 300m viewers.
  • BBC Worldwide’s 50:50 joint venture with Virgin Media, UKTV, had another strong year with increases in both reach and audience size.
  • Distribution of BBC America continues to increase (up from 61m to 64m homes year on year) and the channel celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2008 with its best ever year in ratings.  March 2009 was the best month ever for video-on-demand (VOD) usage of the channel with nearly 1.7m orders.
  • In Scandinavia, BBC Knowledge, BBC Lifestyle, BBC Entertainment, BBC HD were launched on Canal Digital, the largest DTH platform in the region.  In Sweden, the portfolio's share has grown 77.0% since its launch, in Norway it is up 33.0% and in Denmark 18.0% (to March 2009).
  • 08/09 was the first full year of operation for Channels in Poland (excluding HD), where BBC Worldwide remains the most successful foreign channel provider in terms of audience share on satellite operator Polsat.
  • 2009 also saw BBC Worldwide Channels move into Latin America with the launch of two wholly owned channels via distribution partnership with Televisa. BBC Entertainment and CBeebies are now available in 1.8m homes in Mexico and across Central and South America.
  • In Asia, a strong take up of on-demand platforms led to the launch of BBC HD VOD service in Taiwan in April 2008.  BBC-branded channels are also available in Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Hong Kong, South Korea, Indonesia and India.
  • Global Advertising Sales (the newly combined team working across BBC World News, BBC Worldwide Channels and enjoyed a strong first year with more than 400 new customers across BBC World News and and a 39.0% increase in revenues for BBC America.  The newly combined team was applauded in April 2009 when they were named Multiplatform Media Owner of the Year at the Valencia Festival of Media Awards.

Content & Production

Sales £88.2m – up 19% from £73.9m; Profit  £16.7m – up 4% from £16m

  • Overall sales were up, helped by the continuing success of Dancing with the Stars in the US - this remains by far the most successful format for BBC Worldwide and has been viewed in over 75 countries.
  • In the US the first programme of Dancing with the Stars of the eighth series, on ABC, achieved its highest-ever premier audience – almost 23m viewers.
  • In Australia, the local version of Top Gear, Top Gear Australia, made by the company's partner Freehand for SBS, already has a second series commissioned. The first series was Australia's highest-rating SBS-commissioned programme of 2008.
  • Live Entertainment saw almost 1.9m tickets sold to its live shows in the USA, UK, Australia and India.
  • This year saw the network grow to six production bases as the business opened wholly owned offices in Paris and New York, and took a stake in Canadian production company Temple Street.
  • Sales of local versions of The Office in Russia and Israel, and Yes, Minister in the Netherlands.
  • Acquisitions - the level of investment into BBC-commissioned programmes, both in-house and independent-made, increased by 12.1% year on year from £75.1m to £84.2m.
  • Investment in BBC programmes included Solar System and How the Earth Made Us, while previous investments in series such as Little Dorrit, Tess of the D'Urbervilles, Survivors and Beautiful People made it to screen.
  • Equity deals were concluded in 2008/09 with Clerkenwell Films, Plain Vanilla Productions, Hardy Pictures, Baby Cow Productions, Big Talk Productions and Sprout Pictures.
  • Development deals were agreed with Kaboom Productions, Picture Films, Hat Trick Productions and Avatar Productions.

Digital Media

Sales £34.2m – up 56% from £21.9m; Loss £(22.8)m – increase of 109% from £(10.9)m
Exceptional items  £(8.9)m

  • The share of total BBC Worldwide sales contributed by online revenues rose from 2.7% to 4.6% year on year. This increase reflected growth in both Digital Media businesses as well as magazine websites, and VOD sales reported elsewhere.
  • There was growth across all areas of the business but primarily in, which delivered revenue of £10.2m in its first full year of operation. However, losses before exceptional items increased to £(22.8)m from £(10.9)m in 2007/08, largely as a result of investment in developing and also Kangaroo.
  • Digital Media has 58m unique users a month visiting our websites (Omniture Jan-Mar 2009) and more than 10,000 hours of digital programming rights in our catalogue.
  • is one of the world's largest broadcast news websites, reaching an average of 50m users a month (Omniture Jan-Mar 2009).
  • Since launch, more than 400 clients have advertised on including Rolex, British Airways, Lufthansa, HSBC, Microsoft, Nokia, Paramount Pictures, Nestlé, Jaguar and Lexus.
  • Short-form content is licensed to social networks including MySpace and Babelgum, and BBC Worldwide's two-year-old partnership with YouTube was renewed shortly after the year end.
  • Downloads of BBC programmes via Apple iTunes grew and Top Gear topped the iTunes programme charts in the UK, the US and Germany. BBC content was also launched in iTunes stores in France.
  • Digital Media worked closely with BBC Magazines and Lonely Planet to improve their websites. saw a 94.0% rise in traffic year on year and the Lonely Planet website now attracts over 5.5m visitors a month (Omniture Jan-Mar 2009).
  • Motion Gallery sales for the video archive operation increased by 4.9% year on year – 11.8% outside the US – and have now grown every year since launch in 2004.

Sales & Distribution

Sales £195.3m – down 8% from £212.9m; Profit £43.7m – down 6% from £46.7m
Note: Figures quoted are net of inter-business trading. Overall sales, before eliminating trading with other BBC Worldwide businesses, dipped slightly to £231.2m from £236.5m (2007/08), but profits increased to £59.2m (£53.3m 2007/08).

  • There has been considerable growth in digital business, with more than 2000 hours including Teletubbies, Torchwood and Big Cat Diaries being licensed to digital services in France, Germany, Turkey, Russia, Italy and Spain.
  • BBC Showcase remains a core event for the company. Despite the economic downturn, around 500 major clients attended this year's 33rd event. Digital clients included Virgin, Chellomedia and BT Vision.  In total around 1400 hours of new programming were launched at BBC Showcase.
  • In EMEA, sales rose by 5.6% to £132.0m and profit (before investments impairments) rose by 4.8%. This was partly exchange-rate driven but also a reflection of the strength of BBC Worldwide's catalogue of its must-have content.
  • In EMEA adding to the success of franchises such as Robin Hood, Primeval, and In the Night Garden, the business successfully launched Survivors in Europe and took Top Gear into four new markets including Spain and the Czech Republic.
  • Business across the Americas saw profits increase by 92.5% to £12.9m driven by an increase in high-margin licence sales and by currency gains.  This compensated for an 18.9% reduction in sales to £65.2m, as low-margin co-production activity was reduced.
  • The US team expanded its client base during the year with first deals with channels such as Smithsonian and Soapnet, and off-beat comedy found customers amongst such cable channels as Adult Swim (The Office and The Mighty Boosh), Logo (Beautiful People) and IFC (Wrong Door).
  • Drama was also sold in Bolivia for the first time, and the fifth BBC Showcase Latin America was held in Rio de Janeiro.
  • Sales across Asia Pacific increased 9.3% to £34.0m and profit by 3.6% to £11.5m. 
  • Australia and New Zealand saw 13.0% growth in programme hours sold despite the economic downturn.  

BBC Magazines, Children's & Licensing

Sales £210.2m – up 3% from £203.4m; Profit  £13.2m – up 71% from £7.7m

  • BBC Magazines sold around 90m copies of its titles in the past year.
  • Across the adult portfolio, subscriptions at March 2009 were at an all time high of 851,000, up 16% year on year. Top Gear broke through the 200,000 circulation barrier (Audit Bureau of Circulation Jan-Jun 2008) and is the most-read men's magazine in the UK (National Readership Survey July 2008). Radio Times' circulation remains over the one million mark.
  • Launches of new titles increased BBC Magazines' sales to £182.2m, a modest improvement on £177.9m in 2007/08.
  • Losses are partly reflected by the cost of our investment programme such as in the relaunch of and the launch of Lonely Planet magazine. Magazines also wrote down the balance sheet value of our joint venture in India to reflect the weakness of the market there.
  • CBeebies Art and CBeebies Animals this year added to the children's portfolio to reflect current popular BBC Children's programming.
  • Match of the Day, a weekly magazine aimed at 8-14 year olds, was launched in March 2008 and established itself as a key player in the pre-teen market, delivering a strong debut ABC.
  • Children's & Licensing business moved from Home Entertainment to be managed alongside the Magazines business.
  • BBC Worldwide's licensing activities in the UK enjoyed its most successful year for a decade - largely as a result of good merchandise sales for Doctor Who and In the Night Garden, with the latter ending 2008 as the second biggest licence in the UK toy and game market.
  • Children's & Licensing remains the number-two licensor in the UK after Disney.

Home Entertainment

Sales £207.1m – up 5% from £197.3m; Profit  £31.8m – down 33% from £47.7m
Exceptional item £(8.0)m

  • Sales were achieved across all the main product formats during the year, especially those based on the major BBC brands of Planet Earth, Top Gear and Doctor Who.
  • 2 entertain strengthened its position as the UK's number-one publisher of TV-related DVDs. Key titles were Planet Earth, now with sales in excess of 5m units worldwide, and Jeremy Clarkson's Thriller, which got to No.2 in the special interest UK chart in 2008.
  • The Home Entertainment business underwent some restructuring during the year, the Children's & Licensing business was transferred into Magazines and Live Events was moved to Content & Production.  This has enabled Home Entertainment to focus on its core DVD, music, books, learning and audiobooks activities. Two relatively small businesses were closed – Audiocall and Worldwide Interactive Learning.
  • In North America, 2 entertain's second largest DVD market in terms of sales and profits, Planet Earth continued to enjoy broad retail support, with the HD release remaining a top-five title for a second year. Other titles with unit sales of 50,000 or more in the US included Persuasion, Sense and Sensibility, Spaced: The Complete Series and the new series of Doctor Who and Torchwood.
  • Audio & Music, which includes BBC Worldwide's audiobook publishing, record licensing, radio programme sales and music publishing delivered another solid year in terms of sales. While the reported profits suggest a significant decline, 2007/08 included the release of a provision against potential litigation that was no longer required. Underlying trading profits were £1.5m (£2.5m 2007/08) reflecting both the increasingly tough retail environment as well as some restructuring costs in the US audiobook business during 2008/09.
  • The Live Lounge brand continued to thrive with sales of Live Lounge 1 exceeding 333,000 units making it Sony Music's best-selling compilation album ever. 
  • BBC Books, majority-owned by the Random House Group, had a successful year with The Big Book of Top Gear selling more than 380,000 copies and Rick Stein's Coast to Coast almost 82,000. The Good Food 101 One-Pot Dishes was a best-selling title for Amazon, regularly featuring in the food and drink top-20 book chart and selling over 700,000 copies.
  • Audiobooks reached a milestone with its one millionth digital download sale. More than 2000 BBC audiobook titles are now available for sale digitally.

Global Brands

Sales   £43.0m – up 86% from £23.1m; Loss (9.6)m – increase of 357% from £(2.1)m
Note: These figures are for Lonely Planet and comprise full year for 2008/09 and six months for 2007/08. Sales and profits for the other three global brands, Top Gear, BBC Earth and Doctor Who, are encompassed in other divisions and memo-reported within Global Brands in the Annual Review.

  • Global Brands business was set up in April 2008 to drive greater value from BBC Worldwide's leading international and multi-format brands. Top Gear and Lonely Planet were joined by Doctor Who and BBC Earth to create a portfolio of brands.
  • Top Gear had a strong year, highlighting the benefits of being run as a Global Brand.
  • Revenue from Top Gear, Doctor Who and BBC Earth was down to £128.1m (£141.7m 2007/08). Profits from these three titles were also down, to £40.1m (£45.2m 2007/08). In both cases this performance largely reflected reduced sales of the highly successful Planet Earth DVD compared to 2007/08.
  • was relaunched in November 2008 and has seen a 19.8% increase in unique visitors year on year.
  • 270,000 iPhone users have downloaded Lonely Planet's Mandarin phrasebook.
  • The significant investment in LP digital activities helped increase digital revenues to £4.9m (£2.3m 2007/08), but also increased losses to £(3.6)m (£(3.2)m 2007/08).
  • The decline in worldwide travel book sales has had a considerable impact on Lonely Planet.
  • Top Gear Australia magazine was launched by BBC Worldwide's joint venture with ACP Publishing, and is now the most widely read men’s magazine in Australia.
  • A Russian version of the Top Gear TV series, made by MIR Reality, was watched by1.1m viewers.
  • Top Gear Live toured three cities in the UK and Ireland plus Johannesburg, Sydney, Auckland and Hong Kong and was seen by more than 300,000 people.
  • Global Brands worked with BBC Books to develop The Big Book of Top Gear which sold 380,000 copies.

Ali Jeremy

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