BBC Studios, the BBC’s largest commercial subsidiary, has announced its 2019/2020 financial results following completion of the audit process in August.
The company finished the last financial year in a position of strength, with sales up 17%, profit (EBITDA) up 14%, and BBC content investment up 19% for titles including His Dark Materials and Dracula, all at record levels. The business also had its best ever year for content sales, up 21%. Returns to the BBC were up 14% on the previous year, with the dividend up 8% at £71m.
Since year end, the coronavirus pandemic has had a significant effect on BBC Studios’ activities and will impact its returns to the BBC this year 20/21.
In its response to the crisis, and guided by a focus on the health and wellbeing of its people, the business has continued with its strategy to make the boldest British programs, supporting both the BBC Public Service and its international customers with the global demand for quality content, alongside a reduction in investment and discretionary costs.
Tom Fussell, interim CEO of BBC Studios, said: “2019/20 was an outstanding year, and we’re extremely proud of how the BBC Studios team has worked together to deliver both brilliant content and record-breaking commercial returns, as well as a progressive culture. Since year end, the environment in which we operate has changed dramatically, but the performance of the business in 19/20 has given us a position of strength from which to weather the current challenging times. We have worked hard to protect and support our workforce, and we have seen over the past few months programmes such as EastEnders, Top Gear, Dragon’s Den and our new David Attenborough-fronted natural history landmark The Green Planet return to production, alongside the delivery of titles like A Suitable Boy made by our indie partner Lookout Point.
“We are working hand-in-hand with our major customers to help them understand and respond to the acceleration of changes in audience behaviour and we will keep a careful eye on both investment and costs. I am confident that our relentless focus on the best of bold British creative will guide us through.”
Tim Davie, director-general of the BBC and former CEO of BBC Studios, added: “Now more than ever, BBC Studios has a critical part to play in the BBC’s future. I have seen first-hand how this part of the BBC brings tangible benefits for audiences in the UK and abroad, program-makers, licence fee payers and the wider creative industry. This ranges from keeping crucial sources of information like The One Show or Horizon on air during lockdown, growing our award-winning centre of excellence for natural history in Bristol, and building the global profile of exciting new brands like Bluey while continuing the evolution of much-loved ones like Top Gear or Doctor Who. These results show both success for the business and put it on a good footing for future challenges.”
2019/20 was a best ever financial year for BBC Studios, with an enviable pipeline of new business. Sales were up 17% at a record £1,388 million (2018/19: £1,189 million), while EBITDA increased by 14% to £181 million (2018/19: £159 million). Returns to the BBC were a record £276 million (2018/19: £243 million), up 14% year on year – taking BBC Studios’ total contribution in the two years post-merger to over £500m.
The business saw the highest ever levels for both content sales, up 21% and content investment into rights for the BBC, up 19% to £187.5m (2018/19: £157.9m).
BBC Studios was the UK’s most commissioned creator of new content in 2019 , with 77 new commissions in the year: 49 for the BBC and 28 from third-parties including global SVOD services. This makes 53 commissions from third parties to date, including the Jon Favreau collaboration Prehistoric Planet for Apple and the Terry Pratchett adaptation The Watch for BBC AMERICA. A series of new or extended partnerships were signed with major customers including HBO Max, ZDF and Yandex.
Full ownership of UKTV brought immediate benefits, with a very good year in both share of commercial impacts (SOCI) and revenue. The business worked more closely with BBC Studios while retaining its distinct UKTV brand and culture, and BBC Studios’ rights ownership in the UK was simplified.
BritBox went from strength to strength, reaching 1.2m subscribers in North America after year end to become the fastest-growing targeted SVOD service. As well as launching in the UK and initiating plans to launch in Australia, BBC Studios, alongside ITV, announced an intention to roll out BritBox globally, which could see the streaming platform expanding up to 25 territories worldwide.
As BritBox escalates its plans to launch in Australia later this year, joint venture partners BBC Studios and ITV recently appointed Moira Hogan from Network 10 as country manager.