Programme sales boost BBC Worldwide to record profit

LONDON – Overseas sales of 'Spooks' and 'The Weakest Link', as well as the success of the 'Little Britain' DVD, have helped the BBC's commercial arm to amass record pre-tax profits of £55m this year.

BBC Worldwide increased sales by 7% to £706m, as well as making cost savings of £5m. This resulted in profits growing by 50% and a record cash flow to the BBC of £145m.

The improvement leaves the operation on course to meet its target of £74m profit next year.

Profits were delivered by the TV sales, magazines and home entertainment businesses, while losses were seen at the children's and new-media businesses.

The three top-selling programmes or programme formats for TV sales were 'The Weakest Link' format, MI5 spy drama 'Spooks' and its 50th anniversary docu drama 'D-Day'. The division increased profits from £23.2m to £31.7m.

Mark Thompson, director-general of the BBC, added: "I am delighted to see BBC Worldwide producing such excellent results and delivering more cash back to the BBC."

The 'Little Britain' Series One DVD sold 1.3m units, boosting the home entertainment division. However, the cost of forming a joint venture with Woolworths, called 2 Entertain, helped to drag profits down from £19.7m to £13m.

The magazines division, which publishes BBC Gardener's World and BBC Good Food, grew profits from £16.2m to £22m and reported that magazine circulation was up 8% year-on-year. It formed a joint venture with Times of India's magazine subsidiary and licensed eight new international editions of BBC Top Gear.

John Smith, chief executive of BBC Worldwide, said the operation's role was clearer following the BBC's review of commercial activities last year.

"The contributions offered by a wide range of external contacts were very useful, and we have acted to address major concerns by, for example, selling the women's magazine Eve and stopping the trailing of magazines on BBC television," he said.

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