'Doctor Who' among shows driving up sales

Led by five top brands including “Doctor Who,” BBC Worldwide made record profits in the past financial year, according to results posted Tuesday.

Profits in the 12 months ending March 31 were up 10% to £160 million ($255 million). Sales rose by 8% to $1.85 billion.

Sales figures reflected the company’s strategic focus on blockbuster franchises. The leading five — “Top Gear,” “Doctor Who,” “Lonely Planet,” “Dancing With the Stars” and “BBC Earth” — accounted for 27% of the company’s sales. Approximately 45% of BBCW’s sales came from 12 brands.

BBCW, which is the world’s largest distrib of finished TV programs outside the major U.S. studios, sold some 74,000 hours of programming to more than 690 buyers.

John Smith, BBCW chief exec, told Variety that the U.S. media market, which is five times the size of the next largest market, remains the company’s top priority by far.

The three significant elements to its strategy were, first, to build the audience and profitability of its U.S. cable channel BBC America; second, to develop the production biz on the West Coast, led by Jane Tranter; and third, to boost its online and mobile biz in the U.S. The company recently set up a games unit in Los Angeles.

BBCW’s focus on the U.S. market has started to pay dividends. For example, BBC America had its best year ever with primetime ratings among 25- to 54-year-olds up 37%. It now has 68.5 million subscribers.

BBCW’s production biz in the U.S. recently moved into scripted series with the launch of “Torchwood: Miracle Day,” which it is co-producting with cabler Starz.

The pubcaster’s global website BBC.com saw revenues increase by 113% in the U.S.

Another strategic focus for the company is digital entertainment. Digital sales increased to 8% of total sales. Total digital sales across the company, primarily from online and mobile, increased by 32% to $130 million. BBC.com records a monthly average of 58 million users.

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