Another year of strong growth in sales and profits driven by rising international exports

This was another powerful performance from BBC Worldwide. By offering world-class British programming and brands that resonate with global audiences, we were able to lift headline sales beyond a billion pounds for a fourth year in succession and deliver impressive results.”John Smith, CEO of BBC Worldwide
Date: 16.07.2012     Last updated: 18.03.2014 at 18.06
Category: BBC Worldwide
Record returns of £216m to the BBC

Click to tweet: .@BBCWpress BBC Worldwide annual review out today – sales, profits, returns to BBC up. More here

BBC Worldwide will today publish its Annual Review for 2011/12 showing a 8% rise in headline profit to £155m (2010/11: £144m).  Profit before tax of £104m (2010/11: £92m excluding gains on disposals) is up 13% on a like for like basis. The company grew headline sales by 5% to £1,085m in the 12 months to 31 March 2012 (2010/11: £1,030m). These figures exclude the BBC Magazine titles sold and licensed in the year.

Alongside the sale of our magazines business for a consideration of £121m, the strong operating performance has helped lift the overall return to the BBC by 19% to a record £216m (2010/11: £182m) which takes returns to the BBC since 2004 to over £1.3bn.  Total investment in programmes for distribution this year has risen by 6%, to £99m (2010/11: £93m) supporting both the BBC and the wider creative economy.

The results mark another successful year in taking great British content to the world, benefitting the UK’s creative exports. International sales as a percentage of the total increased by 9 percentage points to 64% (2010/11: 56%) as the business continues to sharpen its focus on international markets.

This year, our top selling programme brands were all BBC commissions: Top Gear, Doctor Who, Frozen Planet, Torchwood, Spooks, Sherlock, Planet Earth and Natural World, each of which sold in over 100 markets.

Digital sales increased to 13% of net sales from 8% in 2010/11, driven by very strong growth in sales to subscription video-on-demand providers. Its games business released 11 games in the year, resulting in 3.5m downloads, while our TV programmes have been downloaded over 31m times around the world to date. BBC Worldwide has seen considerable growth in apps and its fans on Facebook: 25m apps have been downloaded to date and fans of the company’s global brands grew to over 23m. The company successfully launched a pilot of the Global BBC iPlayer in 16 markets across Western Europe, Canada and Australia. 

Announcing the results, John Smith, Chief Executive of BBC Worldwide, said BBC Worldwide’s role in driving growth for the wider UK creative industries and reinvesting money back into the BBC is more important than ever in a tough financial climate.

John Smith said: “This was another powerful performance from BBC Worldwide. By offering world-class British programming and brands that resonate with global audiences, we were able to lift headline sales beyond a billion pounds for a fourth year in succession and deliver impressive results.”

“This year we parted company with BBC Magazines, which continues to publish its high quality titles through Immediate Media Company. This move has helped rebalance our portfolio for future growth and also provided a significant cash return back to the BBC.”

“We are proud of the record financial contribution we made to the BBC in addition to our role in championing UK shows, brands and talent around the world. These results have enabled BBC Worldwide to return £216m to the BBC, supporting development of world-class, original content in the context of a tighter licence fee. BBC Worldwide also distributed programmes and formats produced by more than 200 UK independent producers in the year.  I am proud of the unique role we play in helping our sectors of the UK creative industries to expand through exports.”

Mark Thompson, Director-General of the BBC and Chairman of BBC Worldwide, said: “Serving as Director-General of the BBC gives me a unique perspective on the value created by BBC Worldwide. In the last eight years, revenue has almost doubled, headline profits have grown four-fold and over £1.3bn has been returned to the BBC. In a tough financial environment, BBC Worldwide delivered a record £215.7m return to the BBC in the year. I am proud of the work BBC Worldwide does to support not just the BBC, but Britain’s creative industries.”

BBC Worldwide’s performance was underpinned by its strategy, with progress delivered against all five key strategic objectives:

DRIVE DIGITAL GROWTH: “With sales from digital activities now at 13% of total net sales, we are aiming to meet a new target of 15% by 2015.”

BECOME MORE INTERNATIONAL: “International sales increased from 56% to 64% of total headline sales.  We have focused in particular on the English-speaking markets of the USA and Australia, which were our biggest growth markets in 2011/12, delivering growth of 15% and 9% respectively.  In June 2012, BBC Worldwide announced a reorganisation that will further increase its focus on international markets, enabling it to capture future growth opportunities around the world.”

GROW THE SCALE OF OUR TV CHANNELS: “Headline sales in the Channels business rose 14% with the continued roll-out of BBC-branded channels and improving advertising demand.  Our biggest channel, BBC America, was one of the fastest growing networks for ratings and subscriptions in the USA and is now in 77m homes, up from 69m last year. UKTV, our joint venture partnership with Scripps Networks Interactive, continues to remain a significant source of income and profit for BBC Worldwide. We grew the number of subscribers globally from 343m to 356m, launched 10 new services including BBC HD as a full commercial channel in Spanish-speaking Latin America.”

INCREASE INVESTMENT IN CONTENT: “Core to our mission is delivering high-quality distinctive programming to audiences around the world and we invested £99m in distribution rights for great content during the year.  BBC IP is the cornerstone of our content strategy and forms the vast amount of investments we make. However given the needs of the different markets we serve, we also commission and invest in bespoke local programming and some of the best UK productions from other broadcasters.”

DEVELOP MORE DIRECT CONNECTIONS WITH CONSUMERS: “Understanding consumer preferences and developing a closer relationship with audiences around the world is key to our strategy and success.  Our top five brands – Top Gear, Doctor Who, Lonely Planet, Dancing with the Stars (the international version of Strictly Come Dancing) and BBC Earth – account for 30% of company headline sales and around 47% of our sales now come from 12 brands.  1.5m tickets were sold to BBC Worldwide live shows across 10 countries in 2011/12.  The breadth of Live Events we offer has grown significantly over the last year, and our ambition is for this to double again within the next year.”


For further information please contact:
Esther Thompson

020 8433 2506

Charlotte Elston

020 8433 3995



About BBC Worldwide Ltd. BBC Worldwide Limited is the main commercial arm and a wholly owned subsidiary of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). The company exists to exploit the value of the BBC’s assets for the benefit of the licence fee payer and invest in public service programming in return for rights. The company has five core businesses: Channels, Content & Production, Sales & Distribution, Consumer Products and Global Brands. In 2011/12, BBC Worldwide generated headline profits of £155 million on headline sales of £1085 million and returned £216 million to the BBC. For more detailed performance information please see our Annual Review website:


Business Highlights 2011/12

Channels – Offers a global showcase for the best of British television via a portfolio of 32 international, BBC-branded TV channels, and the pilot of the Global BBC iPlayer.  A further 10 channels – the UKTV portfolio – operate in the UK through a joint venture with Scripps Networks Interactive.  Also manages affiliate sales for BBC World News.

  • Headline sales rose 14% to £345m, owing particularly to expanded distribution, further growth in advertising sales on the back of strong ratings performances and the launch of new channels.  This pushed headline profit up 10% to £42m.
  • BBC America, BBC Worldwide’s leading independent US entertainment cable channel with 77m subscribers, achieved its highest ratings ever, up 23% for daytime viewing on the previous financial year, with monthly reach averaging 24m, up 10% on last year’s 22m.
  • 10 new channels were launched this year.  BBC HD launched as a full channel in Spanish-speaking Latin America and BBC Lifestyle debuted in Indonesia.  BBC Knowledge, BBC Entertainment and BBC Lifestyle made their first appearance in Taiwan and launched in Thailand along with CBeebies.  CBeebies also debuted in the Nordic Region as a programming block on one of the region’s largest commercial broadcasters.
  • At year end, BBC Worldwide had 356m subscriber homes in over 100 countries (including UKTV in the UK, BBC World News and the relay of public service channels in Eire and Benelux).
  • The Global BBC iPlayer has so far met the targets set for the pilot.  It now reaches 16 markets around the world, including Canada and Australia, on iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch.

Sales & Distribution – The largest distributor of finished TV programmes outside the US studios with a sales team present in 11 global offices serving 200 territories. Distributes BBC Worldwide’s catalogue of high quality content to over 700 international broadcasters and digital platforms.

  • Sales & Distribution is BBC Worldwide’s largest profit centre, this year generating a headline profit of £72m on headlines sales of £293m.  The continuation of a successful growth strategy, focusing on key client relationships, programme prioritisation, active catalogue management and digital, resulted in a fourth year of double-digit profit growth. 
  • We had a strong year in the Americas, with our digital strategy delivering very solid results.  Major deals with SVOD platforms included Netflix and Amazon, and we have been successful in forming exclusive digital-first content partnerships for titles such as Misfits with Hulu.
  • In EMEA, good growth in major markets such as Germany and Russia limited the impact of the Eurozone crisis.  Revenue growth in Asia Pacific was particularly strong in Australia and New Zealand, where we renewed our first option deal with public service broadcaster, ABC, and signed a number of digital licensing deals.  We had an excellent year in China, helped by digital growth and pre-sales on Science programming.
  • We licensed over 100,000 hours of programming globally in the year, exporting the best of the BBC’s output and other high quality British content around the world.
  • This year saw the move of our annual sales conference, BBC Worldwide Showcase, in its 36th year, to Liverpool.  Registration grew by 19% as the event drew new delegates from digital services and emerging markets.  BBC Worldwide Showcase is the only international TV sales fair to be hosted by a single distributor.  Annual sales and screening events are also held under the BBC Worldwide Showcase banner in both Rio de Janeiro and Beijing.

Consumer Products – Global producer and distributor of TV-based packaged media.  Encompasses video (including DVD, Blu-ray and download-to-own (DTO)), licensed merchandise, music, book and audio publishing partnerships.  Also the home of

  • Challenges in the year included a major loss of stock following a warehouse fire and continuing declines in consumers’ discretionary spending.  Headline sales of £211m declined 16%, with headline profit of £49m down 4% while operating margin improved in the year. 
  • Our Consumer Products business held up well in the face of a number of challenges.  We remain the largest distributor of TV content in the UK, increasing market share in 2011 to 32% of units sold, up from 30% in 2010.
  • Doctor Who now has around 100 separate licensees across a wide range of product categories and was the fourth biggest licence in the market for boys aged 5-14. 
  • Despite the fire and resulting disruption, in the UK we had one of our best ever Christmas trading periods.  The week after Christmas, revenue rose 29% year-on-year due to strong sales of Sherlock, Frozen Planet and The Office.  Our content also made up half of the most downloaded TV titles available via iTunes UK.
  • Doctor Who Series 6 claimed its slot as the most downloaded series on iTunes in the USA in 2011.  Our programmes have now been downloaded over 31m times around the world.
  • In books, The Doctor Who Annual and The Great British Bake Off were the stand-out performers in the Children’s and Adult categories respectively.

Global Brands – Maximises the long-term value of BBC Worldwide’s major brands, creates closer consumer engagement, and identifies and cultivates emerging businesses such as Live Entertainment and Digital Entertainment & Games.

  • On a memo-reported basis, headline sales from key brands across all businesses were £321m, a rise of 4% year-on-year.
  • Within the operating business, headline sales were up 2% to £147m.  Headline losses rose from £(13)m to £(17)m in 2011/12 due to further growth investment, the cyclical nature of some of the businesses and the cost of operating our new Magazines Unit.
  • Despite a challenging book retail market, Lonely Planet grew audiences across print and digital.  In 2012, it became the number one brand in travel publishing in the USA, up from number three at the time of our first investment, taking us to leadership positions in all main markets.
  • In Live Entertainment, we have significantly increased the number of events we are putting on, both in the UK and overseas.  In the past year, we launched a fifth Strictly Come Dancing Live UK Tour and The Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular (global tour).  To date, over 10m people have been to one of BBC Worldwide’s live events.
  • In our Digital Entertainment and Games business, we launched 11 new titles across console, social, online and mobile.
  • 3,000 fans attended our first Official Doctor Who Convention in Cardiff and we hosted 7,000 fans at Comic-Con San Diego.
  • Facebook fans of BBC Worldwide’s global brands grew to over 23m.

Content & Production – Develops and acquires content for all BBC Worldwide’s businesses to exploit.  Licenses formats and runs a global network of production studios.  Also provides expertise to producers, bringing together interested investors to enable projects to come to fruition.

  • Headline sales rose by 32% to £136m, mainly due to a strong US performance, including new US shows.
  • Headline profit increased by 33% to £11m due to the strong US growth, a record year at our production office in France and our talent rights management business, which enjoyed success working with core British talent.
  • Other format successes included sales of Dancing with the Stars to Panama and Georgia, bringing the total number of territories where the show has been licensed to 40.  It is estimated that more than 250m people have watched a local version of the show.
  • BBC formats proved to be extremely successful with BBC Worldwide’s top five in terms of revenue developed in-house: Dancing with the Stars, Torchwood, Top Gear, What Not to Wear, and The Week the Women Went.
  • The LA production base had a number of successes during 2011/12 and produced eight original series for channels including BBC America, ABC, TLC, HISTORY, Starz and OWN.
  • 2011/12 also saw Lonely Planet TV joining Content & Production for the first time and securing two commissions.