Joint venture channels
This general entertainment subscription channel for the Australian market is a partnership between BBC Worldwide, Pearson plc and FOXTEL. BBC Worldwide has a 20 per cent interest in this venture. It was launched in 1996 and achieved a reach of 200,000 homes in its first year and has doubled revenue over the last year - a fantastic performance against other competitors. UK.TV is the most popular channel of its type in that marketplace.
UKTV (BBC/Flextech channels in the UK)
In April 1997 BBC Worldwide and Flextech plc created a joint venture to produce and distribute commercial television channels for the UK market (see Partnerships). These channels are marketed under the umbrella title UKTV, and BBC Worldwide and Flextech plc are equal shareholders in the venture. The channels receive no investment or income from the BBC licence fee.
Three new television channels were launched in November 1997: UK Horizons, offering award-winning science and factual programming; UK Style, a lifestyle and leisure channel; and UK Arena, a music and arts channel. UK Gold was relaunched on 5 October 1997, with a revitalised schedule which draws extensively on the BBC's drama and comedy programming.
The channels are available to cable subscribers (UK Horizons and UK Gold are also on satellite) and are funded by a combination of subscription and advertising income. UK Gold is available in 90 per cent of cable and 100 per cent of satellite homes. The three new channels are available in 38 per cent of cable homes, with UK Horizons additionally available in 72 per cent of satellite homes.
UK Style has performed ahead of plan and has shown a steady increase across the period. UK Gold has been picking up significantly since Christmas, following the introduction of new schedules. Distribution is improving and viewers have provided positive feedback. UK Horizons' success in ratings made it the obvious choice also to be distributed by satellite once there was the opportunity to do so. The priority for the coming year will be to increase distribution of the channels in all metropolitan areas and to be on all platforms when we go digital in the autumn. A music channel is currently in development.
Animal Planet and People & Arts
(BBC/Discovery international channels) The partnership with Discovery is currently developing two global channel concepts, Animal Planet and People & Arts, in which both partners hold a 50 per cent interest outside the USA.
Animal Planet, which offers entirely animal-centred programming, is already a successful channel in the US, where it is established in 37 million homes and within which BBC Worldwide now has a 20 per cent interest. People & Arts is built around a broad range of documentary and information programming, including the Rough Guide travel series, Timewatch and American Visions. People & Arts, launched in Spanish in Latin America in October 1997, already has 5.9 million subscribers. The channel also launched in Portuguese in Brazil in March 1998.