The people at the Beeb realised long ago that even though advertising was forbidden, they could still make money by selling programmes to other countries and, most importantly, through merchandising.
Beeb.com is the online shopping service arm of BBC Worldwide and firmly establishes the corporation's mercenary tendencies in cyberspace.
Its main selling point is that it is marketed as internet shopping for those who are computer illiterate or just complete idiots.
But the best thing about it, compared with other shopping portals, is that it convinces you that you can buy online with far less trepidation than usual. With the whole site wrapped in the trusted familiar BBC security blanket, you can sit back, relax and chill out with Auntie. The homepage lauds three reassuring virtues, emblazoned in large friendly letters: 'Impartial advice from the BBC. Best prices from trusted retailers. Safer shopping with beeb.com.'
Site characteristics Apart from the constant reminders to breathe deeply, that it's OK to be here and everything will be fine, the first striking feature of the site is that it allows banner ads. Users are herded to various sections via programme logos such as Top Gear or Gardener's World.
Target audience Presumably the entire BBC audience demographic. There's something for almost everyone from spotty children to the silver surfer market.
Principals Drew Kaza heads BBC Worldwide's Internet and Interactive division and Julian Turner is the chief executive officer of Beeb Ventures Ltd (Beeb.com and Beeb.net).
Lesley Henry is the marketing director but is leaving at the end of the month to run the interactive TV business at Telewest.
Backers The site is funded by the US venture capitalist TH Lee Global Internet Managers. The company invested pounds 32.5 million over three years.
Beeb Ventures is currently valued at pounds 240 million.
Marketing The pounds 7 million spent on the last campaign must have done some good. The campaign, created by In Real Life, included a TV spot spoofing a Ladybird book, entitled Shopping on the Internet, and used a doctored version of a song from Bizet's Carmen. Beeb.com followed this up by publishing the Ladybird book - giving potential users a 'Janet & John' guide to web shopping.
Competition Any other shopping website that you can think of: Amazon.com, Handbag.com, etc.
THE YEAR AHEAD
Bags of competitors means that no online shopping site is a safe bet, but the Beeb has the brand already established and during its last audit recorded 402,863 individual users. A sound start. - We're not convinced.