The BBC is merging its commercial division BBC Worldwide and its newly independent production unit BBC Studios into one entity – a major move that creates an organisation with a turnover of around £1.4BN (US$1.9BN).
The two companies, which have always had a close working relationship on shows such as Strictly Come Dancing and Blue Planet II, will become BBC Studios, echoing the global trend for vertical integration and bringing the BBC into line with the likes of ITV, Endemol Shine Group and Fremantle Media.
It marks a change in strategy for the BBC, which originally rejected the idea of combining BBC Studios with BBC Worldwide when the former was spun-off from the public broadcaster earlier this year.
The new business will be lead by Chief Executive Tim Davie with BBC Studios boss Mark Linsey named as Chief Creative Officer. It is likely to begin trading in April 2018. The change has been considered and approved by the BBC Board.
The new business will continue to invest in third-party production companies – it currently owns stakes in producers including Tim Hincks’ and Peter Fincham’s Expectation and Trump: An American Dream producer 72 Films – as well as distribute third party content.
Following the restructure, the combined companies will employ around 3,000 permanent staff, along with six production bases in the UK, a further seven wholly-owned and production partnerships internationally, and operations in a total of 22 markets.
BBC Director General Tony Hall said: “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.
Davie said: “Creating one company, in line with market norms, is a natural step in this market. The new BBC Studios will be focused on the highest quality British content, underpinning our future financial return to licence fee payers. It will allow us to better serve customers, indie partners and the wider industry, resulting in world-class British productions for audiences in the UK and overseas.”
Linsey added: “Bringing BBC Studios and BBC Worldwide together will help secure the BBC’s future and guarantee our unrivalled creativity, risk-taking, quality and range.
“I am so proud of BBC Studios’ programmes – from huge hits like Blue Planet II and Strictly Come Dancing, to the extraordinary Drugsland and Murdered for Being Different on BBC Three, to EastEnders, Mrs Brown’s Boys, Our Girl, Carols from Kings, Antiques Roadshow, Countryfile and Horizon. We cater to every taste and this merger means that will continue for years to come.”