BBC Studios hit record profits of £226m ($267m) last year and the company has spent money on drama as it emerges from the pandemic, according to the annual report released today . However, the report contained worrying statistics about the number of Britons using the BBC every week, at a time when it is under government pressure.
BBC Studios, the company’s commercial arm, had a strong year as chief executive Tim Davie placed greater emphasis on delivering higher commercial returns, with revenue up 30% to 1 .6 billion ($1.9 billion) and EBITDA up 56% to £226 million, topping £200 million for the first time.
The gains, which were attributed to the good performance of key brands such as Doctor Who and Top of the line as well as new shows The outlaws, the pursuit of love and It will hurt, come as BBC Studios’ borrowing limit has been increased by the government to £750m ($887m).
The company’s distribution arm made more than £400m ($472m) in content sales and the production arm won 104 new commissions, a quarter of which were for third parties. Last year, it won 74 new orders, including 16 for third parties. Shows airing this year include Apple TV+ prehistoric planet and the second season of Amazon Prime Video Good Omens.
Looking ahead, BBC Studios CEO Tom Fussell, who replaced Davie after a long search last year, said the company was in a “favorable position amid continued demand for high-quality content. , a large proportion of sales coming from multi-year carrier agreements and a robust production slate.
“While not immune to broader geopolitical and market dynamics, where audience habits continue to change and competition increases, BBC Studios is a business in good shape with strong prospects for growth. “, he added.
BBC Studios has therefore exceeded its five-year target of returning £1.2bn ($1.4bn) to the BBC from 2016/17, with a similar target in place over the next five years.
The BBC is still on the hunt for huge savings of around £285m ($336m) a year due to the upcoming licensing fee freeze, however, and BBC Studios’ profits remain a small part of its overall revenue of £3.8 billion ($4.5 billion). which increased slightly last year.
Writing in the report, Davie hailed a strong year but said “it is disappointing to face a two-year freeze and we will have to absorb the considerable costs of inflation over this period”.
“This presents us with significant challenges, especially as BBC revenues for UK services are already 30% lower than a decade ago in real terms,” he added.
BBC Studios’ success came as the BBC adjusted to a post-lockdown world by splashing cash on drama, boosting spending by 30 per cent to £376m ($444m), while that comedy and entertainment spending rose 17% to £214m ($252m). ), according to the very detailed report of almost 300 pages.
Overall content spending rose 27.5% to £1.78bn ($2.1bn) as the BBC was able to return to normal service, after spending at least three months of the 2020/21 period to not be able to do any programs due to COVID-19.
Of more concern to BBC bosses, statistics buried deep in the report show UK viewers spent an hour less using BBC services per week last year than last, falling to 7am 12 minutes a week on average, while the overall proportion of Britons watching the BBC fell by 3pp to 73%.
The BBC will likely float the lifting of COVID restrictions as the reason for the drop, with life returning to a vague normality, while pointing to an increase in BBC iPlayer logins from 1.5 million to 12.1 million, but the numbers will be without any worrying doubt. those at the top.
There has also been disappointment for BBC Three, which skews young people, as viewing to the channel by its target audience of 16 to 34 has dropped by around 10 million minutes a week. The network, which recently returned to linear television, only reaches 6% of 16-34 year olds per week.
Other notable nuggets from the report include DG Davie’s 15 per cent pay hike to £494,000, a drop in staff numbers of almost 1,000 and an increase in the time it takes for the company to resolve bullying cases at over 100 days for the first time in three years.