EXCLUSIVE: The coronavirus pandemic has wiped £318 million ($433 million) off the combined value of the BBC’s commercial operations, including BBC Studios, which makes global shows including Doctor Who, Good Omens and Top Gear.
The British pubcaster has revalued its three non-license fee-funded units (BBC Studios, BBC Global News and studios facility BBC Studioworks) at £1.3 billion ($1.8 billion) since the pandemic swept through the British media industry in early 2020. That’s down nearly a fifth (19%) on 2019’s valuation of £1.6B ($2.1B).
The figures are a chastening reminder that, although the BBC has a guaranteed public income of £3.5B, it has not been immune to the economic devastation of coronavirus. It suffered alongside broadcasting peers in the UK, not least Channel 4 and ITV, which both sounded the alarm at the height of the crisis.
BBC Studios was forced to halt production on 80 shows, while tumbleweeds blew through a number of BBC Studioworks facilities. The BBC also had said previously that the advertising market’s nosedive had a “significant impact” on the revenue at ad-funded news channel BBC Global News.
Deadline understands that the £318M write-off, disclosed in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s annual report, was calculated last year at a time when there was high uncertainty about growth forecasts. The BBC remains confident of a recovery in fortunes this year and in 2022.
In the meantime, the broadcaster has put in place measures to preserve cash flow. This includes cutting costs by £140M, much of which is simply a byproduct of productions being delayed. The BBC also significantly reduced its commercial dividend (the amount of cash it returns to the BBC’s public service operations) from £73M in 2019 to £3M last year.
The BBC’s commercial operations posted a combined EBITDA of £189M in the 12 months to the end of March 2020, which was up 9% on the previous year. BBC Studios, the biggest of the BBC’s commercial arms, is yet to name a permanent replacement for CEO Tim Davie, who became director general last year.