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Content & Production
Wayne Garvie, Managing Director
Content & Production works with BBC Vision Studios and independent producers, both in the UK and in other key markets, to secure new
programmes and properties for BBC Worldwide. The business increasingly develops, licenses and produces TV formats for broadcasters around
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As BBC Worldwide’s capacity to distribute content builds via a range of channels – both TV and online – so the need for protecting, and growing,
a strong flow of high-quality content increases. Consequently, in addition to coordinating investment in rights, Content & Production is also
building a global network of production offices that can develop and produce shows in order to maximise BBC Worldwide’s catalogue of TV formats.
Content & Production delivered strong sales of £68.5m, up 35.9% on 2006/07, and profits doubled to £14.2m. The growth came from the US where its
Los Angeles production office had a stand-out year as the popularity of Dancing with the Stars (the international name for Strictly Come Dancing)
continued and new shows were brought to air. In Europe sales and profits fell, principally because of The Weakest Link ending a long run of six years
on French television and the impact of increased development costs. Development funding for projects in Australia impacted profits from other markets.
The team also managed the development of a feature film version of the BBC award-winning series Planet Earth.
In 2006/07, the BBC Content Acquisitions Unit was created to invest in and develop projects specifically with BBC Vision Studios. During 2007/08
BBC Worldwide committed to an early investment in seven drama titles, which have since been commissioned by the BBC and which will air in the UK
over the next 18 months. The well established Indie Unit continued to build relationships with the UK independent sector and new output deals
agreed within the year include ones with Red, Tern TV and Oxford Film and TV. The latter will deliver Simon Schama’s latest project on America.
In 2007/08, for the first time, BBC Worldwide also secured stakes in two UK independent production start-ups, Left Bank Pictures Ltd and Cliffhanger
Overall, acquisition of rights from independents rose. However total investment across all BBC commissions fell by 22.0%, as this was a year
in which there were no major factual series offering investment opportunities.
The production business started late in 2006/07 with a view to both maximising the value of existing rights and also creating its own intellectual
property for different markets. The stake BBC Worldwide took in Australian indie The Freehand Group is starting to reap rewards: new property
Outback Wildlife Rescue is now selling internationally, and a commission to produce Top Gear for SBS in Australia was secured.
The business continued along this path in 2007/08, opening an office in Mumbai which has secured the commission to make the next Dancing with the
Stars season for Sony Entertainment Television. Content & Production now has an office in New York to develop formats for east-coast
cable networks, and projects are already underway with Lifetime, MTV and TLC. As well as delivering another highly successful season
of Dancing with the Stars for ABC, the Los Angeles office produced Clash of the Choirs for NBC and Dance War: Bruno vs Carrie Ann for
ABC, and won the commission to make a pilot of Top Gear for NBC.
Dancing with the Stars continues to delight audiences around the world. The series had a re-commission rate in 2007/08 of nearly 90% and was
seen by audiences in 40 countries. It remains key to both the business and BBC Worldwide, and the team is working to help ensure the further
longevity of the format. The commissions to make local versions of Top Gear in the US and Australia will give this series a launch pad from
which to secure more commissions, as well as kick-start further magazine and licensing opportunities.
Although a challenging time for the US industry, the writers’ strike in 2007 opened up new opportunities for the LA and New York production offices
to discuss scripted formats in more depth with the major players. Content & Production believes it is possible to make UK comedy and drama
formats work in this major market but does not underestimate the scale of the challenge. During the year The Office format was sold to
UCTV in Chile, while the popular crime series Life on Mars was sold to Antena 3 in Spain, the setting being adapted to the post-Franco
era of 1978.
The business has a three-pronged strategy to drive growth from formats. First, the in-house development team are devising
new formats to appeal to particular markets: for example, a new game show called How Much is Enough? was developed and sold
to the Game Show Network in the US. The format was then launched to the international broadcasting industry at BBC Showcase
2008. Secondly, Content & Production will be working with the Sales & Distribution business to refine further
the approach to selling formats. And thirdly, once the network of international production companies is established,
experienced producers can start to unlock the BBC’s archive of TV formats.
The feature film Earth, based on the widely acclaimed natural history series Planet Earth, went on theatrical release in Asia,
Europe and the Middle East. In Japan it went to number one at the box office and remained in the top 10 for seven weeks. In Germany
it also went to number one, remaining in the top 10 for 12 weeks, and received the Golden Screen Award, a first for a natural history film.
In Spain it became one of the highest-grossing documentary films ever. Even before the film reaches US audiences next spring, it has outperformed
BBC Worldwide’s previous theatrical natural history release, Deep Blue.
Content & Production has plans to establish further production capability in Europe and the Americas in 2008/09. In the US the focus will be on growing
its relationships within the US cable industry and on continuing to develop the potential of comedy and drama formats. Given the ongoing popularity of reality
TV, it will devote continuing resource to developing its own formats in this genre. Content & Production’s development team is focused on creating new breakthrough
international entertainment formats. The team is also working with Lonely Planet to produce a new era of travel programmes and from 2008/09 will be managing the Live
Events business, previously in Home Entertainment.