BBC Studios Posts Record Financials, BritBox North America Hits 1.2M Subs

BBC Headquarters

BBC headquarters

The public broadcaster's commercial arm says that "creative, strategic and financial strength will help weather challenging times" in the latest fiscal year started in April due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

BBC Studios, the commercial arm of U.K. public broadcaster BBC, on Tuesday reported record financial results and said its BritBox streaming service has crossed the 1.2 million subscriber mark in North America.

It also predicted that "creative, strategic and financial strength will help weather challenging times" in the latest fiscal year started in April due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The BBC also highlighted success in using digital to make up for reduced linear viewing. On-demand service iPlayer now has content available for at least 12 months and, "for the first time, the growth of iPlayer has largely made up for the most recent falls in linear TV viewing," the BBC said.

A summary of BBC Studios' financials touted "a very strong financial performance in 2019/20, with record sales, profits, content investment and returns to the BBC." And it mentioned the "best ever year for content sales" thanks to a 21 percent increase.

Addressing the pandemic, BBC Studios said it has had a "significant impact" that will "affect BBC Studios’ performance," with management taking "active mitigation measures."

BBC Studios said revenue for the latest fiscal year rose 17 percent to £1.39 billion ($1.79 billion), while earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization increasing 14 percent to £181 million ($233 million). The business' returns to the BBC were up 14 percent over the previous year.

Tom Fussell, interim CEO of BBC Studios, said, "we’re extremely proud of how the BBC Studios team has worked together to deliver both brilliant content and record-breaking commercial returns, as well as a progressive culture."

He added that "we have seen over the past few months programs, such as EastEndersTop GearDragon’s Den and our new David Attenborough-fronted natural history landmark The Green Planet return to production, alongside the delivery of titles like A Suitable Boy made by our indie partner Lookout Point."

Tim Davie, the former boss of BBC Studios and new director general of the BBC, said: "Now more than ever, BBC Studios has a critical part to play in the BBC’s future. I have seen first-hand how this part of the BBC brings tangible benefits for audiences in the U.K. and abroad, program makers, license fee payers and the wider creative industry. ... These results show both success for the business and put it on a good footing for future challenges."

Content investment into rights for the BBC rose 19 percent to £187.5 million ($ million) in the latest fiscal year. "A series of new or extended partnerships were signed with major customers, including HBO Max, ZDF and Yandex," the firm noted. "Full ownership of [channels business] UKTV [after splitting its networks up with Discovery] brought immediate benefits, with a very good year in both share of commercial impacts and revenue."

And BBC Studios said streaming service BritBox "went from strength to strength, reaching 1.2 million subscribers in North America after year-end to become the fastest-growing targeted SVOD service."