Exclusive: BBC Studios eyes “channels, streaming & prodco” investment

Prehistoric Planet

BBC Studios (BBCS) is looking to make the most of its increased investment capability following its annual results yesterday, with spending on production companies, streaming expansion and channels on the agenda.

The commercial arm of the UK public broadcaster revealed record profits for 2021/22 of £226m ($267m), as well as a new sales high that hit almost $2bn, and is also seeing its borrowing capability more than doubling from £350m to £750m by 2027.

Hours produced soared from 1,352 during the pandemic-hit period of 2020/21 to more than 2,400 to the year ending 31 March with revenue up 56%, and BBC CEO Tom Fussell told TBI that the growth in production revenues had been”particularly strong”.

Global outlook

Fussell, who took the top job at BBCS in October, said the results were not simply “a Covid-19 bounce back” but a reflection of its investments in production companies, channels and streaming.


“We’re also winning significant amounts of works with customers around the world,” he continued, pointing to shows such as Apple TV+ natural history series Prehistoric Planet as an example of a show that has helped to supercharge production revenues.

Fussell added that investments in production companies around the world are being explored, with BBCS looking to use its “healthy balance sheet” to expand its current portfolio that includes 13 UK-based firms, ranging from Baby Cow and Expectation, to House Productions and Clerkenwell Films.

The CEO said BBCS is “investing further and looking where we do it”, adding that there are “no constraints” in terms of geographical location, despite most investments to date being in the UK.

UKTV future

Fussell also pointed to the “very successful” year achieved by UK-based channel group UKTV, which has been owned entirely by BBCS since 2019 when the organisation acquired the 50% stake held by Discovery.

The group, which includes the channels Dave, Drama, Gold, Yesterday, W, Eden and Alibi, as well as on-demand service UKTV Play, saw audience shares increasing, while profits rose 105% as advertising bounced back to boost revenues.

Further expansion is being explored for UKTV and streamer UKTV Play, Fussell said, with the comments coming three months since BBCS sold its stake to ITV, ahead of the latter’s role out of ITVX.

“UKTV has been very successful and we’ve also taken control of production labels,” he continued, highlighting the well-timed move in December to take full control of Sherwood producer House.

“We’re looking at channels, streaming [ventures] and production companies,” he added. “BritBox [outside of the UK] has been a success, our channels have been a success and if you look at other things the BBC is really well known for – be it audio or news or factual, which isn’t on BritBox – there are things we could do there.”

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