BBC Worldwide CEO Hunts Big Game

Tim Davie puts high-quality content at the heart of company's growth strategy

Almost one year into his job as the CEO of BBC Worldwide, Tim Davie is ready for another course adjustment.

Mindful of how well popular scripted TV sells in global markets, “breakthrough content,” as Davie describes it, is at the heart of his strategy, though he doesn’t kid himself that things will be easy. Supporting such an effort these days “is not for the fainthearted,” he notes. “Funding of these big dramas has completely changed. You need to factor in potential digital partners and how you play with windows,” he says.

It seems that ever since Davie graduated from Cambridge, his job has been to know what the public wants, first in marketing at Procter & Gamble and PepsiCo., then at various executive posts at the Beeb, including his present assignment as head of the commercial arm of the U.K. pubcaster.

He’s now stalking high-quality content — particularly for the company’s U.S. arm, BBC America — and revamping channels around the globe.

The strategy may not sound radical, but it’s far different than the one when Davie took over Worldwide, with plans to expand the brand by investing in third-party ventures.

That path has been abandoned, and a long-running co-production partnership with Discovery was allowed to expire. In its place is a goal to put the Corp’s commercial activities more in line with its domestic aims; Davie says Worldwide wants to own more rights in the U.S.

“When you look at those people in the U.S. who have transformed their channel businesses, it’s been through high-quality programming; big scripted drama transforms businesses,” he says. Worldwide is poised to invest $330 million in high-end content, up 10% over last year, some of it in the U.S. via its BBC Worldwide Prods. arm.

America is still a priority market. “In the U.S., we remain a small business, which in terms of scale needs to grow,” Davie acknowledges. The U.S. focus remains on cable net BBC America and Worldwide Prods.’ activities, with shows led by an aging “Dancing With the Stars.”

But coming soon is “Intruders,” a drama with paranormal elements from writer and executive producer Glen Morgan (“The X-Files”) and based on Michael Marshall Smith’s novel of the same title. “Intruders” is a BBC America original series produced by BBC Worldwide Prods. and distributed internationally by BBC Worldwide.

Outside the U.S., Worldwide is refining its channels business.

BBC Brit, a factual entertainment net aimed at young males, will roll out later this year in two as yet unidentified countries. Also being prepped is BBC First, which offers drama and comedy, and is set to debut in Oz on the Foxtel platform in August.

The changes are many, but this time it seems like there’s no turning back. “This is the way to transform channel businesses,” Davie says.

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