BBC Should "Take More Risks," Offer "More Original" Content, Annual Review Finds

BBC Broadcasting - Getty - H 2016
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The U.K. public broadcaster published improved financials in its annual report on Tuesday.

The BBC in its annual report for 2015-16, published on Tuesday, once again touted the success of big dramas and other shows as its bottom line improved.

The U.K. public broadcaster, led by director general Tony Hall, reported its results for the fiscal year ended March 2016, with Hall lauding the success of such shows as War and Peace, The Night Manager and The Great British Bake Off, among others.

"Those viewing BBC television are increasingly rating it as 'fresh and new,’ " found the BBC Trust, the governing body of the broadcaster. "However, there remains a performance gap in the public’s broader view of the BBC in this respect, and qualitative research we undertook...suggests that there is still a public appetite for the BBC to take more risks in its programming and offer more original and innovative content.”

The BBC's bottom line for the latest fiscal year amounted to $77.7 million (£59 million), including a £96 million gain from a real estate sale, compared to a deficit of £125.2 million in the previous fiscal year.

The BBC's revenue of $6.36 billion (£4.83 billion) compared with £4.81 billion in the previous year. That included license fee revenue of $4.92 billion (£3.74 billion), in line with the pounds result for the previous fiscal year. Total operating costs declined from £4.90 billion to £4.80 billion, or $6.32 billion.

BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the broadcaster, reported a full-year profit of $176.3 million (£133.8 million), down 3.5 percent from £138.6 million in the previous fiscal year. Excluding the effects of the sale of a stake in BBC America, underlying profit was up 4 percent. BBC Worldwide revenue of $1.36 billion (£1.03 billion) compared with £1.0 billion in the previous year, up 2.8 percent, or 6.7 percent in underlying growth when adjusted for the part sale of BBC America to AMC Networks.

"Sherlock: The Abominable Bride became the top-selling title of the year and was licensed to 216 territories," according to BBC Worldwide.

Said BBC Trust chair Rona Fairhead: “This year, the BBC has delighted, engaged and informed audiences with high-quality and distinctive content while continuing to drive down costs, although reaching younger audiences and those in all the U.K.’s nations remains an important challenge. The public have been clear they want a strong, independent BBC and they have no appetite for fundamental changes to it; their views must be reflected as the new charter [that the BBC operates under] is finalized, and the new BBC board must ensure that the public’s voice continues to be at the heart of decisions.”

Said Hall: “Off air we’ve made progress in making the BBC a simpler and leaner organization that focuses more of our spend on making content. Next year I want us to go further and build on the stability a new charter gives us to serve the whole of the U.K. with programs that are distinctive, innovative and trusted.”

Hall also said: "Alongside our creative success this year we now also have certainty over the BBC’s future. The debate about the renewal of the BBC’s charter has taken place over this year and the result has been a government white paper, published in May 2016, that backs a strong, world-class BBC."

He added: "Above the noise and debate of the last 12 months, I’m convinced that it’s the quality of our programs and services that people care about most. It’s our creativity and editorial ambition on-screen and on-air that make the case for the BBC.... I strongly believe that the BBC’s best days are ahead of us, and that’s what I’ve been fighting for throughout the year."