BBC Worldwide CEO Talks Deals

Tiger Aspect/Jonathan Hession
BBC Worldwide on Tuesday announced a deal to buy a stake in a U.K producer behind 'Ripper Street'

Tim Davie on possible U.K. acquisitions, BBC America and how the company makes "significant revenue" from Netflix

Fresh off a deal to acquire a 35 percent stake in U.K. production firm Lookout Point (Ripper Street, War and Peace), BBC Worldwide CEO Tim Davie on Tuesday night said his team could look at other purchases of or arrangements with British content creators.

Lookout has done "a brilliant job," Davie said, adding that there are "a few" other companies like that. The head of the commercial arm of U.K. public broadcaster BBC spoke at a London evening event organized by the Royal Television Society.

But BBC Worldwide has "a very specific objective" of strengthening its position in content unlike private equity or venture firms, which look mainly for financial returns. "It's simply that we're interested in U.K. content," he explained. "There is a community of really brilliant people" in Britain who champion U.K.-driven projects and don't want to sell to conglomerates from the U.S. or other countries.

Read more BBC Worldwide Executive: U.K. Drama Can Be 'Alternative to U.S. Fare'

He mentioned how many in the entertainment industry keep saying that content is king, and they are right. But everybody needs to hedge who will distribute this content in the future amid changing consumption patterns. "BBC Worldwide is a content company," and owning intellectual property looks like the "safest" place to invest in at the moment, he said.

Davie emphasized though that not all relationships with producers have to end up in BBC Worldwide buying a stake as the company is also open to partnerships, distribution deals and other forms of collaboration.

Davie was also asked about talks with AMC Networks, the latter taking a stake in BBC America, news of which emerged this summer. He said BBC America keeps having ratings successes, but is one of few independent channels in the U.S. market, which has been consolidating quickly. He said he was "interested" in talks about possible arrangements, adding "we are talking to lots of people regularly." He didn't comment further.

Asked about UKTV, a British networks joint venture with Scripps Networks Interactive, which has been believed to be interested in buying control of the venture, Davie said: "I have no interest in selling down our stake in UKTV."

The BBC Worldwide CEO on Tuesday once again lauded the "global appetite" for British-style content, which he said meant a special type of humor or irony and great storytelling. He highlighted current hits, such as Sherlock, and said future hits may include such shows as Wolf Hall and War and Peace. Again, he highlighted a size challenge, saying: "It's getting more expensive to get into drama," meaning the company needs to ensure funding.

Read more BBC Worldwide CEO Targets U.S. Growth

In China, he predicted BBC Worldwide would get to do more co-productions in the future. He said the country's emerging middle class seems particularly hungry for high-quality natural history programs, but revenue is limited in the market right now, and doing business has its challenges.

Davie on Tuesday also said that his company now makes "very significant revenue" from Netflix and Amazon Prime.

And he said he continues to target financial growth over the coming years. His team wants to see "growing revenue and growing profit," he said.

Asked about his stint as acting director general of the BBC before Tony Hall's appointment as the top executive of the public broadcaster, Davie said it was demanding and rewarding. But he declined to throw his hat into the ring as a future director general, only saying: "I like being in this job. I'm happy."

Calling working for the BBC "addictive," he said managing a creative company was more difficult than a soft drinks company like his former employer PepsiCo. Said Davie: "You can only get so excited about sugared water."

Email: Georg.Szalai@THR.com
Twitter: @georgszalai

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