BBC banks on thriving export biz

Demand for kids' programs buoys numbers

LONDON — Bucking a trend, Beeb commercial division BBC Worldwide has announced a 28% increase in its exports to £220 million ($350 million) for 2000, up on 1999’s $270 million, with exports exceeding imports.

Results come despite a recent government report asserting that the U.K.’s TV trade deficit has risen by 60% to $640 million, due to the popularity of American shows like “Friends,” “ER” and “The West Wing.” Exports were slow at $704 million in 1998 while imports rose from $1.11 billion in the same year to $1.35 billion in 1999. The U.S. has 80% of the global market compared with Britain’s modest 3%.

Cash cow in kid fare

The BBC accounted for 51% of total U.K. exports amounting to $540 million in 1999. The bulk of the BBC’s sales success stems from the demand for children’s programs such as “Teletubbies” and “The Tweenies.” The rest of the export market is showing a decline because of a marked increase in local production of generic dramas and soaps in key areas.

According to BBC Worldwide chief exec Rupert Gavin, American acquisitions are still “a cheap way of delivering an audience.” Gavin said the BBC’s success was attributable to its highly visible platforms around the world, making for a substantial global business. “Key factors have been the success of our programs, channels, branded blocks and the reversioning of programs such as ‘Top of the Pops’ for local markets.”

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