×

BBC to buy out int’l partners

Takes sole ownership of BBC World and BBC Prime

LONDON — The British Broadcasting Corp. is poised to take over sole ownership of the international channels BBC World and BBC Prime by buying out its partners Pearson and Cox Communications.

The deal, which will be announced later this week, will effectively see Pearson and Cox write off their investment of around $40 million in European Channel Management, the company that runs the two services.

BBC Worldwide, the pubcaster’s commercial arm that already owns 45% of European Channel, is said to be paying only a nominal sum to acquire Pearson’s 45% stake and the remaining 10% from Cox.

That deal reflects the ongoing financial struggles of the 3-year-old news channel BBC World, which reaches more than 50 million homes in 180 countries via cable, satellite and terrestrial transmission, and the entertainment service BBC Prime, which is restricted to 5.6 million cable homes in Europe.

The buyout comes as the pubcaster finally is making progress with its long-cherished ambitions to launch BBC World in the U.S. market.

After more than a year of tortuous negotiations, the BBC finally has completed its global alliance with Discovery Communications, which is due to be formally unveiled Thursday. As part of the deal, Discovery and leading shareholder Tele-Communications Inc. will give BBC World its Stateside entry.

Other aspects of the alliance include extensive co-productions between the BBC and Discovery, and a commitment to launch joint-venture channels around the world.

But the exit of Pearson and Cox from ECM illustrates how difficult private companies have found it to make commercial partnerships work with the BBC, whose public-service agenda and management ethos complicates its decision-making.

Pearson in particular has long been unhappy with its role in ECM, for which it was expected to provide the bulk of the operating capital without being able to impose an aggressively commercial strategy to recoup its investment.

Pearson’s decision to sell out also fits with its wider strategy to dispose of minority broadcasting investments that do not bring any tangible benefit for its core production business. In the past year, Pearson sold its 10% stake in Hong Kong broadcaster TVB, and half of its 4% stake in U.K. satellite programmer Flextech. Its remaining stake in Flextech, and its small holding in satcaster BSkyB, both are up for sale.

Pearson remains a partner with the BBC in the Australian satellite channel UKTV.

More Biz

  • Jennifer Lawrence Harvey Weinstein

    Harvey Weinstein Bragged of Sex With Jennifer Lawrence, Lawsuit Claims

    Harvey Weinstein was hit with a lawsuit Friday from an actress who claims he forcibly performed oral sex on her, repeatedly masturbated in front of her, and threatened to harm her career if she objected. According to the suit, Weinstein pushed her to the ground during a meeting in his office in 2013. He then [...]

  • Times Up Hollywood

    Time's Up Entertainment Announces New Industry Mentoring Initiative

    Time’s Up Entertainment, an affiliate of the Time’s Up coalition of women across industries working to improve workplace safety, has announced the “Who’s in the Room” industry mentoring initiative. The program’s goal is to increase the presence of people of color from diverse backgrounds in the entertainment industry’s executive ranks. Funded by a $500,000 grant from [...]

  • Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt in

    Paramount Inks Deal for Theme Park in South Korea

    Paramount Pictures has announced a deal to install a studio-branded theme park in an entertainment resort being developed in South Korea. The agreement was struck between Paramount and Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment, which owns the Inspire Integrated Entertainment Resort in the South Korean city of Incheon. Mohegan has invested KRW 2.8 trillion ($2.4 billion) in [...]

  • Davan Maharaj Mel Gibson

    L.A. Times Publisher's Lawyer Was Accused of Extorting Mel Gibson

    The attorney who negotiated a $2.5 million exit package for L.A. Times publisher Davan Maharaj was previously accused of using secret recordings to extort actor Mel Gibson. Surreptitious recordings also figure in the Maharaj case. NPR reported on Wednesday that Maharaj taped Tronc chairman Michael Ferro. According to the report, Ferro was heard on the [...]

  • 'Blurred Lines' Suit Ends With $5

    'Blurred Lines' Suit Ends With $5 Million Judgement Against Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams

    After five years, the legal battle over the copyright of the Robin Thicke’s 2013 hit “Blurred Lines” has ended, with Marvin Gaye’s family being awarded a final judgment of nearly $5 million against the song’s primary writers, Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams, according to CNN and other reports. The pair were accused of copyright infringement [...]

  • WME Veteran Ari Greenburg Promoted to

    WME Veteran Ari Greenburg Promoted to President of Talent Agency

    WME veteran Ari Greenburg, one of the original Endeavor staffers who helped build the talent agency that became an industry powerhouse, has been promoted to president. Greenburg will oversee all daily operations across WME and its offices in Beverly Hills, New York, Nashville, London and Sydney. The promotion recognizes the role that Greenburg has played [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content