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Sales & Distribution
Steve MACALLISTER, Managing Director
Sales & Distribution underlined its position as Europe’s biggest exporter of television programmes, delivering another year
of excellent profit growth and continuing innovation.
|Rest of World||27.7
|Sales & Distribution*||212.9
|Rest of World||9.0
|Sales & Distribution*||46.7
Sales dipped slightly to £212.9m from £216.4m in 2006/07, mainly reflecting the change in mix in the US from low-margin co-production deals
to more profitable licensing deals. Profit grew well at 16.2% year on year to another record of £46.7m. An expanding client base, particularly
new digital channels and video-on-demand suppliers, also improved the bottom line.
Under the new leadership of Managing Director Steve Macallister, the business rolled out a five-year strategy that will put it in
an even stronger position to sustain growth in a fast-evolving market. Restructuring the business was a central first step in delivering
this strategy, with regional heads being appointed in EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) and Asia.
A new US management structure was put in place in April 2008, bolstering BBC Worldwide’s presence on the west coast of the USA and allowing it to
better leverage relationships with the US networks.
A commitment to optimising the BBC Worldwide programme catalogue is a crucial part of the strategy. The business will place greater emphasis
on maximising the potential of longer-running series, such as Doctor Who and Top Gear, that have sustained international appeal and can be readily
turned into global cross-platform franchises and drive catalogue sales.
Modern drama, including Jekyll, Mistresses, Primeval and Torchwood, sold well to complement period productions such as Cranford, Sense and Sensibility
and Oliver Twist. All found strong markets further confirming the UK’s reputation as a leading producer of bold, high-quality drama.
As a distributor of programming for the world-renowned BBC Natural History Unit, BBC Worldwide had continued success with Planet Earth, rolled out Ganges and
Life in Cold Blood, and unveiled the landmark Wild China, its first-ever Chinese co-production.
A focal point of the year was once again BBC Showcase, held in Brighton, UK. It remains the world’s largest television sales trade event hosted by a single
distributor, attracting over 540 customers from around the world. With over 1000 hours of new content in the front catalogue, there was more on offer than ever
before for traditional television buyers as well as mobile and digital media buyers.
Sales & Distribution is in the vanguard of the digital broadcasting revolution and 2008’s BBC Showcase was fully digitised, allowing buyers to select and view their favourite
content by online screening to PC. The digitisation of the back catalogue continues, ensuring that customers will be able to receive content via digital delivery routes
as the market adapts.
Traditional and developing European markets both drove steady sales in a highly competitive marketplace. Sales were up 3.4% to £116.1m and profits
grew from £28.8m to £30.8m, up 6.9%. Profits were driven by a higher proportion of licensing business compared with co-productions.
Across the region it was a case of traditional thinking complementing new ways of working. Renewed output deals with SIC in Portugal and FORTA
in Spain helped double revenues in Iberia in two years, as did imaginative deals such as a co-production agreement on Frozen Planet. The sale of Life
on Mars to Spain’s Antena 3 also paved the way for a local version of the hit series (see Content & Production).
There was a similar story in Italy, where there were co-production and output deals with Mediaset as well as sales of Life on Mars to RAI.
The extension of these long-established partnerships heralds a new appetite for UK drama across Italy.
Using the strength of the front catalogue to leverage the enduring appeal of the back catalogue, vintage episodes of Doctor Who – back to 1963 –
were packaged with the new Torchwood series to TV4 Sci-Fi in Sweden. In Germany, deals were struck to sell the new Omid Djalili Show as well as
all 83 episodes of the classic ’Allo ’Allo series.
In the UK, the launch of the new channel Dave allowed the sales team to strengthen its collaboration with UKTV, while the team also developed new
partnerships with both Virgin1 and Orange.
Sales of £69.1m were down from £78.2m, but profits rose to £6.9m from £2.9m in 2006/07. Latin America and Canada sales and profits were broadly on a par with last year,
and included programming to Globo and Chilevision in Latin America while Top Gear and EastEnders were top-10 programmes on BBC Canada. Other notable sales
included In the Night Garden to Treehouse and Primeval to Space.
The strong partnership with US public broadcasting continues via WGBH Boston, which was co-producer of Cranford, and which bought a major tranche of programming for their Jane
Austen season. Other important sales were Doctor Who and Sarah Jane Adventures to the Sci-Fi Channel and co-productions included Between Two Rivers and The Passion with HBO.
REST OF THE WORLD
Elsewhere sales grew 6.9% year on year, with profit up 5.9% to £9.0m, helped by the explosion of new video-on-demand customers. Contemporary drama such as Primeval proved particularly
popular in markets such as the Philippines and South Korea where UK shows are often hard to sell. Over 140 hours of UK drama were sold to Japan, with two channels – LaLa TV and Mystery Channel –
licensing several series and creating bespoke Sunday evening slots. Licensing an increasingly broad range of UK content to free-to-air and subscription TV platforms helped grow the
Sales & Distribution business by 16.7% across Australia and New Zealand.
The appointment of a dedicated market research team will allow the sales teams to deliver smarter long-term deals, offer producers and stakeholders comprehensive data and tracking, and better identify
international trends and opportunities.
With a greater emphasis on audience and customer insight, an enhanced management team in place and a continued commitment
fully to exploit front and back catalogue sales, Sales & Distribution is well placed to deliver further growth.