BBC plans int’l expansion

The BBC is looking to expand its global presence by creating new entertainment-based TV channels in the United States, Asia and Australasia, according to James Arnold-Baker, chief executive of BBC Enterprises.

No timetable was given for the plan, but Arnold-Baker said discussions were already taking place with possible local partners.

Keith Owen, BBC-E’s director of U.K. television, confirmed that he had held discussions with SelecTV, the British production company which earlier this week floated the idea of launching a U.S. cable channel for U.K. programs. But he said the pubcaster had several other options in the U.S.

Satellite stake

In the United Kingdom, BBC-E, the pubcaster’s commercial arm, is already a 20 % shareholder in the satellite channel UK Gold, which screens old BBC and Thames TV programs. The other shareholders are Thames and two American cable companies, Cox Enterprises and Tele-Communications Inc.

These partners are reportedly poised to launch a second satellite channel this fall, dubbed UK Living, a lifestyle service targeted at female audiences. However, it is “unlikely” that the BBC will take an equity stake this time, according to Owen, confining itself to a program supply deal.

BBC-E announced Thursday a profit before tax and interest of T11.8 million ($ 18 million) for the 1992-93 financial year, up from $ 8.4 million the previous year. Sales increased 15% to $ 306 million, not including a further $ 44 million raised in co-production finance, slightly down on the year before.

UK leader

The division is responsible for the pubcaster’s international program sales and is also active in magazine, book, audio and video publishing. Last year the BBC was the top-selling video label in the U.K., with a 10.5% market share and sales of $ 40 million.

International program sales earned $ 114 million, of which 42% ($ 48 million) came from North America. BBC Lionheart, the New York-based subsid, is now the largest supplier of foreign programming in the U.S.

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