Media Lifeline: BBC Worldwide

The BBC's commercial arm has unveiled plans to expand around the globe.

1960: From its earliest days, the BBC has owned a couple of programme-oriented magazines, Radio Times (launched in 1923) and The Listener (1929); and by the 50s it has also begun selling programming to overseas broadcasters. In 1960, these activities are formalised into BBC Enterprises and BBC Publications, which also sells books and school materials.

1988: In 1986, BBC Publications merges with BBC Enterprises. But the great commercial leap forward comes two years later with the acquisition of the contract publisher Redwood, run by Mike Potter (pictured), which it uses to develop masthead versions of BBC programmes.

1994: BBC Enterprises is rebranded as BBC Worldwide to reflect its nascent international television ambitions, having launched an international news channel called BBC World. Dick Emery (pictured), ITV's director of market strategy, is named chief operating officer.

1997: But now it also weighs into the UK's commercial television market through a joint venture with Flextech to launch UKTV. It starts modestly with UK Gold, the home of vintage comedy programmes such as Dad's Army, but expands steadily to house ten channels. BBC Worldwide also signs a joint venture deal with Discovery in 1998.

2006: Announcing profits of £90 million, John Smith, BBC Worldwide's new chief executive, also unveils a vigorous global expansion strategy, especially in television. He says that there is now scope for five BBC-branded channels (spanning the likes of general entertainment, pre-school children, homes and gardens, and science) plus a BBC news channel, in every major market on the planet.

Fast forward ...

2016: Having secured licence-fee funding of £15 billion a year for the next decade and having tied up a worldwide joint-venture deal with the new owners of Rupert Murdoch's international TV assets, the division between BBC TV and BBC Worldwide is dissolved. It is given permission to become a fully fledged UK commercial video entertainment company with the purchase of an ailing but historically important network called ITV.