BBC Worldwide channels under threat

BBC Worldwide’s linear channels portfolio is under scrutiny as new CEO Tim Davie looks to focus the business and exploit its premium programming catalogue – without struggling with “mid-tier” offerings.

Speaking at the FT Digital Media conference this morning, Davie defended brands like BBC Earth, but said there were “other offers further down in the middle ground” where BBC Worldwide would have to “make some choices.”

“I’m not going to struggle with propositions that are in the mid-tier that really aren’t match-fit. We’ve got a brilliant business selling to other channels. I think you’re going to see us make more clear choices in that,” said Davie.

Though he did not give details about which particular channels or territories he was referring to, as he is “only three weeks in the job”, Davie stressed that BBC Worldwide’s channels have “really got to pass muster.

“You can’t say ‘I wish it passed muster.’ If in the sales presentation you’re peddling a little hard, I would suggest you’re in deep trouble. You have to actually believe it…[or] the audience are going to be brutal with you.”

On the plus side, he argued that BBC Earth, which draws from the BBC’s rich Natural History catalogue is a “credible offer” that can also include merchandising and live event tie-ins. He also praised Worldwide’s recent deal with Foxtel in Australia for the new BBC premium content channel, which he said would have “high-end, top-end content.”

Outlining his overall strategy for BBC Worldwide, Davie said that he wanted to focus the business, arguing that its recent restructure along geographic lines was the “best way of exploiting the ideas within our business.”

“I wanted to really take a look at the business immediately when I came in and said ‘let’s focus’. What are the brands, what are things we need to do, and be slightly less drawn-in to more divergent activities, which I actually think aren’t the route to sustainable growth. Short-term you might make a turnover, but that’s not my style,” said Davie.

He said that in a world that now includes OTT offerings like Netflix, content owners have more possibilities and options and argued that the BBC’s core programming brands were still “massively under-exploited” on the global stage.

“As someone who has got a brilliant unparalleled catalogue of high-end content, outside the UK I can essentially make some choices with the view to maximise revenue for the UK license fee payer and build the BBC brand. I’ve never had a better queue of people that want that content. Now there is a balance between the windowing, the exclusivity and where do I extract most value from that? There’s not one size fits all.”

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