U.S. business a key driver

LONDON — BBC commercial arm BBC Worldwide delivered a record return of £216 million ($337 million) to the pubcaster’s coffers for the financial year ending in March, according to the division’s annual review, published Monday.

Revenues exceeded $1.56 billion for a fourth consecutive year, headline profits rose 8% to $242 million and pre-tax profits were up 13% to $162 million.

The most significant growth was in the content and production business, which saw sales up 32% to $211 million and profits up 33% to $16.4 million.

A powerful U.S. performance was the key driver, with headline sales up 44% to $178.7 million for the Americas.

Success continues to come from Hollywood-produced BBC brands, including “Dancing With the Stars,” coming up to its 15th season, as well as strong imports, including “Frozen Planet” and “Doctor Who.”

“We are pleased to be championing U.K. shows around the world and investing in the best content,” said BBC Worldwide chief exec John Smith. ” ‘Torchwood: Miracle Day’ is a good example of a show made in Hollywood based on a BBC property, which sold around the world.”

The BBC announced Monday that the “Dancing With the Stars” format has sold to its 43rd country, Lebanon.

The channels business was a significant revenue generator, with sales up 14% to $538 million. BBC America, the division’s biggest channel in distribution terms, has now reached 77 million homes, up from 69 million in the previous year.

Sales and distribution were also a big driver for the division with a pre-tax profit of $113 million, up 13% year-on-year, with the biggest growth coming from sales to digital services.

Digital services are making up for ground lost in the consumer products business, where sales were down 16% to $330.5 million and profits off 4% to $76.8 million. This was in part due to a weak U.S. video market.

The cause and cure is coming from the rise in mobile and online consumption streams. BBC Worldwide is iTunes’ No. 1 supplier of content to own in the U.K., while in the U.S. it delivered iTunes’ highest download figures with season six of “Doctor Who” surpassing U.S. shows including “Mad Men.”

Digital sales now account for 13% of BBC Worldwide’s total net sales with the division targeting a 15% share by 2015.

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