BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the BBC, is reportedly closing in on a £50M ($61.2M) funding deal with Access Entertainment, the company set up last May by former BBC Director of Television Danny Cohen. The news was first revealed by UK trade Broadcast. Any deal remains speculative for now, however Deadline understands that BBC WW and Access are working on a potential pact which would boost the former’s high-end drama pipeline.
Access Entertainment is backed by Len Blavatnik’s Access Industries. The company, which said in May that it’s prepared to invest several hundred million dollars in an initial phase, is focusing on the entertainment sector with a concentration on high-quality TV, films, and theatrical productions.
BBC WW and Access are already in business together with stakes in Tessa Ross and Juliette Howell’s House Productions. In the past few months, BBC WW has also increased its stake in British drama producer Lookout Point and taken a minority position in Michael Jackson and Alex Graham’s Two Cities Television.
In a statement provided to Deadline, a BBC WW spokesperson said, “BBC Worldwide has been exploring a number of ways to bring in third-party capital to support premium British drama investment. We have nothing further to announce or add at this moment.”
Whatever the provenance, extra cash would help BBC WW pursue a strategy of securing top-drawer British drama which it would then exploit globally.
With the increased demand for high-end drama — and the UK a particularly hot industry — budgets have grown exponentially in the past few years, both despite and because of the TV tax credit which has made it so attractive to shoot in Britain. As Broadcast notes, UK broadcaster contributions are essentially level — in some cases less than 50% of the cost of major series — meaning distributors and co-producers are being asked to pony up more cash.
BBC WW chief executive Tim Davie recently told the RTS London conference, “We are looking at ways we can create drama funding by using third-party money… There is lots of capital out there, whether that’s private equity or other things. It’s all about the people, the culture, the returns they want, and the risk profile.”