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BBC to bow more U.S. channels

Worldwide profits rise by 37% to $219 million

LONDON — BBC Worldwide is to bow more TV channels in the U.S. in the next 12 months as part of its strategy to derive two thirds of its income from outside the U.K. by 2012.

Revenue for Worldwide’s channel biz grew by 16.4% last year, from £225.6 million ($341.2 million) to £262.6 million ($396.9 million), according to the company’s annual report, published Monday.

Profits for the division, which includes cable web BBC America, were £39.2 million ($59.2 million), up more than a third on the previous year’s £29.2 million ($44.1 million).

While the channels business surged ahead, it was a more mixed picture for international sales and distribution.

Overall, gross revenue for this part of the business was stable at £240.8 million ($364.1 million). Profit increased 4.6% to £64.2 million ($97.08 million).

But in some markets, including the U.K. and Germany, program sales declined due to the downturn in ad revenues and a lack of co-production partners respectively.

In the Americas sales fell by 3.5% while profits plunged by 38.5%.

Economic factors, including exchange rates, were blamed.

However, in Asia Pacific the sales and distribution market was much healthier, with sales to Australia and New Zealand up by 31% and those to Asia increasing by 37.6%.

Worldwide said the sales and distribution market is expected to improve next year.

“Co-productions with be significant, particularly in EMEA and the U.S.,” said the firm.

Internationally the top five BBC program brands were “Top Gear,” “Life,” “Planet Earth,” “Being Erica” and “Doctor Who.”

Overall BBC Worldwide’s revenue increased by 7% to £1.074 billion ($1.623 billion) in the 12 months to March 31, 2010, breaking the £1 billion barrier for the second year running.

Sales generated overseas rose from 51.3% to 54.6% of total revenue.

Worldwide’s profits were £145 million ($219 million), an increase of 36.5% on the previous year’s £106 million ($160 million).

Worldwide CEO John Smith said the figures reflected a very strong performance in spite of difficult conditions in many markets.

He explained, “As well as developing into a diversified global media business and extending the international visibility of the BBC brand, the company is delivering a strong financial performance.”

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