BBC Worldwide reports record profits


LONDON -- BBC Worldwide, the pubcaster's commercial arm responsible for licensing, program sales and a global channels business, posted record pretax profits of £111.1 million ($222.4 million) for the 12 months to March 31, up from £89 million in the previous year, CEO John Smith said Thursday.

Revenue for the period was up at £810 million ($1.6 billion), from £785 million in 2005-06 with overseas sales accounting to 46% of total revenue.

BBC Worldwide increased its investment in program production to £96.3 million ($192.8 million) from £89 million last year, as the division took a foothold in such productions and formats as "Dancing With the Stars."

BBC Worldwide's channel division proved to be the fastest growing profit driver for the group, delivering a nearly threefold increase in profits to £20.9 million ($41.8 million) from £6.9 million a year ago. Revenue from the division that operates 28 channels in 259 million homes totaled £169 million ($338.3 million) up from £166.1 million.

During the past 12 months, the division has refocused its portfolio to grow distribution of the core channels: BBC Entertainment, BBC Knowledge, BBC Lifestyle, CBeebies and BBC HD.

Global television sales for the period topped £216.4 million ($433.1 million), up from £189 million last year, delivering underline profits of £40.2 million ($80.5 million).

Top selling titles included "Doctor Who," "Robin Hood," "Torchwood" and "Life on Mars."

Sales to European territories grew 23% to £57 million 114.1 million) while sales to the U.S. were up 17.2%.

BBC Worldwide's global format business continued to deliver significant growth, with such titles as "Dancing With the Stars," "The Weakest Link," "Just the two of us" and "Friends Like These" delivering sales of £53 million ($106.1 million) up from £36 million a year ago and profits almost tripled at £9.5 million ($19 million).

Smith said the business had exceeded targets and was positioning itself for growth in new markets.

"BBC Worldwide has achieved a threefold increase in profits in the last three years," he said. "We have exceeded expectations in most of our businesses over the past 12 months, reflecting healthy returns from our new channels business, strong TV catalog sales and growing demand internationally for BBC formats.

"We are now investing to build our digital offering and strengthen our position in markets such as the U.S., China, India and Australia, creating one of the world's premier content networks."

BBC director general Mark Thompson added that Worldwide made a crucial contribution to the financial health of the BBC.

"BBC Worldwide continues to deliver excellent returns for license payers from the content they help fund us to make," Thompson said. "Its success is increasingly critical to our ability to invest in original creative programming for audiences in the U.K., and the company is playing major part in taking those programs out to the rest of the world."