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Retooling o’seas biz buoys Brit TV exports

Kids brand licensing, merchandising rose a boffo 47%

LONDON — British TV exports hit $578 million in 2000, up 5% from 1999. But the growth comes on the back of big changes in how U.K. TV companies do business overseas.

Sales of finished programming declined 11% to $309 million, whereas licensing and merchandising rose a boffo 47% to $149 million, thanks in large part to the BBC kids brands “Tweenies” and “Teletubbies.” Co-productions rose 45% to $58 million and format sales were up 14% to $17 million.

The key growth markets were France, up 41% to $47 million, Spain at $26 million (13%), Scandinavia at $27 million (11%) and Latin America at $18 million (23%).

Sales to the U.S. were $167 million, up 1%. Australia/New Zealand saw a 1% lift to $64 million and Germany declined 4% to $45 million.

Mike Phillips, chairman of the British Television Distributors Assn. and director of international TV for BBC Worldwide, told Daily Variety: “We are selling into an increasingly competitive and commercial world market. It’s more of a hits business and so it’s more difficult to produce volume sales.”

Phillips said the U.K.’s indie sector was under particular pressure. He added that talent-driven companies — vehicles for big-name comedians, for example — would weather the storm better than general producers.

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