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BBC Worldwide Global Brands
MARCUS ARTHUR, MANAGING DIRECTOR
BBC Worldwide has a history of developing popular media properties into multi-format global brands.
During 2007/08 a review of how to support key brands and drive even higher returns from them resulted in
the creation of a new business area, Global Brands.
|Publishing and licensing||20.8
|Publishing and licensing
Marcus Arthur, who had been MD of BBC Magazines’ London-based publishing business, was promoted to the BBC Worldwide Board as
MD of this new operating business. From 1 April 2008 both Lonely Planet, the leading travel information group in which BBC acquired
a controlling interest in October 2007, and Top Gear, the world’s biggest media motoring brand, will be managed from within this new
business area. Other brands will be incorporated into the new business in due course.
In its five-year strategy set out in July 2007, BBC Worldwide
outlined its intention to achieve some growth through acquisition.
In October it acquired a 75% stake in Lonely Planet. Based in Melbourne, Australia, the business has an
internationally recognised brand, shares common cultural values with the BBC and has established capability in print,
TV and online formats. Not only does the acquisition give BBC Worldwide additional online and international growth opportunities,
but it also provides a route via which new audiences can be introduced to BBC content.
In the six months since acquisition, the underlying business performed well, with sales volume up 6.4% and an underlying
trading profit of £4.4m in the main publishing and licensing business. Following the acquisition, the Lonely Planet Board agreed to
develop a strategy that harnesses BBC Worldwide’s expertise and assets. As a result, considerable investment has been made in the website,
due to re-launch in autumn 2008. This investment, together with the post-acquisition costs incurred in aligning the business with BBC Worldwide,
and goodwill amortisation, resulted in a loss of £(2.1)m.
PUBLISHING AND LICENSING
In a year in which the market for travel guides was up only 1.3% in volume terms, Lonely Planet grew volume by 6.4%, outperforming its
competitors. Much of this growth was due to the success of the Encounter series aimed at short-break city trips; Lonely Planet now has a 13.6%
market share of this sector.
Regionally, Lonely Planet’s performance reflects its market-leading position. Trading has become tougher for all guidebook publishers in the key
US market as the economy slows, although here Lonely Planet has increased sales 4.5% against an overall market decline.
Lonely Planet’s established licensing arrangements have also grown in the last year and one in every five Lonely Planet books
sold is now in a language other than English.
DIGITAL STRATEGY AND INVESTMENT
BBC Worldwide moved quickly to bring clarity to Lonely Planet’s online strategy and is investing significantly in this. The website will be
among the largest sources of authored travel content on the web, combined with the insight of the Lonely Planet user and BBC on-screen talent.
The website will be a powerful and unique ‘triple play’, with users returning to source up-to-date information they can rely upon, to connect
with friends and fellow travellers through groups and community tools, and to take content to share through their own sites.
In April 2008 the team managing the commercial activities associated with the Top Gear series was transferred into the
new Global Brands business.
The Top Gear programme, which takes an authoritative but often irreverent approach to cars and motoring, is a long-time favourite in the
UK and also has many fans around the world: the UK series is shown in 44 countries. In the UK, the magazine is the number one
motoring title and number three men’s lifestyle title, and Top Gear merchandise, from DVDs to books to games, is highly popular.
In March 2008 BBC Worldwide announced a joint-venture deal that will launch a live version of the Top Gear programme at major UK
motor shows. The first of these live events will be staged in autumn 2008.
BBC Worldwide now intends to drive the brand forward internationally. The first fruits of this strategy are the commissioning of
two local TV versions – a full series in Australia for SBS and a pilot in the US for NBC. BBC Worldwide has also set up a joint venture
in Australia with ACP to publish a local version of the Top Gear magazine (local versions are already available in a number of countries
including Russia, India and China) and opportunities in other markets are being explored. Top Gear’s broad appeal, which makes it a hit
with audiences beyond the core fan-base of car enthusiasts and young men, means the brand is ideal for development as a global franchise.
Global Brands will bring increased focus, investment and marketing expertise to key international brands, including Top Gear and Lonely Planet.
2008/09 will clearly be a landmark year for Lonely Planet, with mobile propositions in the market and a range of new book products in the pipeline.
Work on a range of new concepts in collaboration with other BBC Worldwide businesses, from TV formats to magazines, is currently being assessed.
The relaunch of the Lonely Planet website during the year may depress profit in the short-term while building value in the longer term.