BBC Studios (BBCS) has unveiled record profits over the past year of £226m ($267m), as well as a new sales high that hit almost $2bn.
The commercial arm of the UK’s BBC saw its overall sales touch £1.6bn ($1.93bn) in 2021/22, up from the pandemic-hit £1.26bn last year, while the amount of hours produced soared from 1,352 in 2020/21 to more than 2,400 to the year ending 31 March.
A quarter of those hours went to third parties, as per BBCS’s revised remit struck four years ago, while production sales were up 56% and content sales topped £400m.
Profits also soared, with EBITDA soaring 50% from the £151m in 2020/21, when production hiatuses caused extensive damage to bottom lines.
BBCS, which has been tasked with increasing growth by 30%, said the results and its ability to now borrow up to £750m to fuel expansion is “opening up opportunities to invest” and has put the organisation in a “strong position to build commercial income in line with BBC Group priorities.”
The organisation is increasingly being seen as having a key role to play in supporting the domestic BBC, which is facing a $375m funding cut and, potentially, the end of the licence fee funding model.
Channels & key shows
The UK-based company added that UKTV, which has been owned entirely by BBCS since 2019 when the organisation acquired the 50% stake held by Discovery, saw profits from its channel and streaming operation rise 105% as advertising bounced back to boost revenues.
The group, which includes the channels Dave, Drama, Gold, Yesterday, W, Eden and Alibi, as well as on-demand service UKTV Play, also saw shares increasing. Drama, Gold and Alibi increased by 11%, 7% and 5%, respectively, in the 2021 calendar year. Streaming service UKTV Play added one million registered users, BBCS said.
BBCS pointed to “key brands” such as Doctor Who and Top Gear, as well as natural history show Green Planet and dramas including The North Water and This is Going To Hurt, as key performers in its £400m content sales.
The company said that returns to the BBC – a dividend plus investment in programming – more than doubled to £353m, up from £137m last year, when no dividend was paid. The £135m dividend paid this year has helped BBCS achieve its target of £1.2bn over the first five years of the current charter.
Diversity & climate results
BBCS also revealed it that 98% of its UK productions received the eco-friendly Albert certification, while its annual pay gap report, which has been published at the same time, detailed pay gaps for gender, ethnicity, disability and LGBTQ+ employees broken down by career level band, as well as global analysis for the first time.
The majority of career level bands show median pay gaps of within +/- 5%, while the overall median gender pay gap is now below 10%.
Tom Fussell, who was named CEO of BBCS last year, described the past year’s numbers as “stellar” despite “extremely challenging conditions”, highlighting shows such as entertainment format Strictly/Dancing With The Stars, drama Time, kids hit Bluey and the Planet series.
“With new freedom to invest, and a new commercial board, now is the time for the business to step up a gear. Despite an uncertain economic climate, we’re hugely confident about the opportunities ahead: and while this investment in future growth might impact on our profits over the short term, we know that we are building a business which can play a more significant role in the future of the BBC.”
Fussell added: “We’re amongst the most transparent in the media sector for pay gap disclosures, with breakdowns for gender, disability, ethnicity and LGBTQ+ across all levels of the business, as well as new data this year for our global staff.
“While there is much to be proud of as our gender pay gap continues to fall, inevitably these figures paint a picture of a work-in-progress, especially where we are investing in the talent of the future. We know there is work to do to achieve the equality we seek across the board, and we will work tirelessly to make this happen.”