The BBC is to make a renewed push into China after merging its production and distribution divisions. Today is the first working day for BBC Studios, the $1.9B division that incorporates its eponymous production arm and international unit BBC Worldwide.

It is looking to develop new production opportunities in Beijing with the hire of Matthew Springford to lead the charge. Springford, who was formerly an executive producer at BBC Studios based in Glasgow, will move to the Chinese capital to kickstart its move. Springford, who recently produced series including The Art of Japanese Life and Handmade in Japan, will be based at the BBC office in Beijing alongside the BBC Studios’ distribution team and will be working with Chinese TV stations and digital platforms to co-develop and co-produce original content and new formats across all factual genres.

The move comes after it launched an Australian production unit with the commission of a local version of science series Stargazing.

The creation of BBC Studios will bring together two of the corporation’s largest units and echoes the global trend for vertical integration, bringing the BBC into line with the likes of ITV, Endemol Shine Group and Fremantle Media. It will be responsible for the production and distribution of series such as Strictly Come Dancing and Blue Planet II.

The new business will be lead by Chief Executive Tim Davie with BBC Studios boss Mark Linsey named as Chief Creative Officer. Davie said, “BBC Studios exists to inspire audiences globally, strengthening the BBC financially and creatively, working with the very best British talent. Bringing together the UK’s most awarded production business, a world-class content sales business, our unique portfolio of brands, and a network of premium indie partners, BBC Studios has what it takes to create and export quality British programmes in this new age of content.”

Linsey added, “Today is an important and exciting day for the BBC. For me, it’s all about BBC Studios’ outstanding creativity and the brilliant programmes that we and our indie partners make.”