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BBC merges Studios and Worldwide

UK public broadcaster the BBC is merging its production arm, BBC Studios, and commercial division BBC Worldwide (BBCWW) into one entity.

BBCThe BBC claims the move to plump for one commercial brand – BBC Studios – will bring it “into line with the rest of the industry” in an “increasingly competitive and global market for production and distribution”.

Rumours the unit may merge have existed since the launch of BBC Studios last year. This established the BBC’s production arm as a commercial entity for the first time in its history.

BBCWW CEO Tim Davie will lead BBC Studios as chief executive, with studios director Mark Linsey becoming chief creative officer of the new unit.

The BBC, which is financed by licence fee payers, claims the new structure will:

  • Create “a unified business with a single business plan and combined operating model better placed to support the full range of the UK’s creative talent, producing high quality, distinctive UK content in bases across the country”
  • Maximise “the intellectual property value of BBC programming for the benefit of UK licence fee payers”
  • Support “the UK creative economy by distributing British content as a cultural export and source of global influence”

BBCWW’s commercial activities, which includes content financing, programme sales and commercial channels, will now be grouped with those of the former BBC Studios under a single business plan and operating model.

The two units already work together on major BBC shows such as Blue Planet II, but the BBC claims the new structure means they will “operate more simply and efficiently”.

Two divisions, BBC Production and BBC Sales & Distribution, will sit with BBC Studios from an expected launch date of April 1, 2018.

The BBC claimed “all of the major established UK industry players integrate their programme production and distribution in this way”.

In a fast-changing TV industry, securing the future success of the BBC is vital,” said Tony Hall, who is concerned that a £500 million drop in spend on UK programming could occur by 2025. 

Creating a single BBC Studios will bring the BBC in line with the industry, be simpler and more efficient,” he added. “It will help ensure that licence fee payers in the UK continue to receive outstanding British programmes which reflect British lives, long into the future.” 

Hall claimed the move would “also ensure the BBC can continue to play its crucial role in supporting the successful UK creative economy”.

BBC in-house productions include Blue Planet II, Top Gear, Strictly Come Dancing (Dancing with the Stars), Antiques Roadshow, Eastenders and Three Girls.

BBCWW has returned around £1 billion to the BBC over the past five years, successfully distributing programming such as Planet Earth II, Doctor Who and Dancing with the Stars.

The BBC will continue to invest in third-party content and indie production companies.

The new business will employ around 3,000 staff, with six production bases in the UK, seven international production partnerships, and operations in a total of 22 territories.

Bringing BBC Studios and BBC Worldwide together will help secure the BBC’s future and guarantee our unrivalled creativity, risk-taking, quality and range,” said creative chief Linsey.