The BBC is merging its commercial and production arms in a major move designed to maintain its global clout in the face of threats from big players such as Netflix and Amazon.
The union of BBC Studios and BBC Worldwide into a single commercial structure will create a “simplified organisation with a single business plan and combined operating model” according to the BBC.
BBC Studios – which makes the BBC’s in-house programmes – and commercial arm BBC Worldwide already work together closely on shows such as current TV hit Blue Planet II. But the formal merger is principally designed to maximise the revenue the BBC can generate from global sales from the scores of other shows it makes in-house such as Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing and Top Gear.
The move follows warnings from BBC director general Tony Hall earlier this month of the “serious threat” due to changes taking place in the industry as a result of the rise of Netflix, Amazon and Apple, which he said threaten a dramatic fall in investment in home-grown television.
Favourite British shows such as Strictly Come Dancing and Britain’s Got Talent made by British ‘terrestrial’ broadcasters will be affected according to Hall, who warned that the amount spent on British TV could fall by around £500 million a year over the next ten years.
This figure – around 20 per cent of the total spend on British-made programmes for the British market – was identified in a report by consultants Mediatique, which was specially commissioned by the BBC to look into the future of the industry.
Hall also recently said he wants viewers to be able to access all their favourite shows from the BBC’s entire archive in a new paid-for digital service.
Announcing the merger of BBC Worldwide and BBC Studios today, the BBC said in a statement: “The TV industry has been changing fast and major global players are investing vast sums in content – but not primarily in British content reflecting British lives.
“Recent research by consultants Mediatique earlier this month forecast that spending on British programming could fall in real terms by £500m over the next decade – posing a real risk to the volume and breadth of British content available, with a potentially damaging impact on distinctiveness, risk-taking and innovation. A successful new BBC Studios will be better placed to make the investments others will not.”
Production arm BBC Studios makes Blue Planet II, Strictly Come Dancing, Antiques Roadshow, EastEnders and Top Gear.
BBC Worldwide has returned almost £1bn to the BBC in the past five years via sales of programmes and secondary deals with shows such as Doctor Who (sold to 239 territories) and Top Gear, sold to 241.
Announcing the merger, Hall said, “In a fast-changing TV industry, securing the future success of the BBC is vital.
“Creating a single BBC Studios will bring the BBC in line with the industry, be simpler and more efficient. It will help ensure that licence fee payers in the UK continue to receive outstanding British programmes which reflect British lives, long into the future.
“It will also ensure the BBC can continue to play its crucial role in supporting the successful UK creative economy.”
The new BBC Studios will be jointly led by Chief Executive Officer Tim Davie and Chief Creative Officer Mark Linsey.