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Worldwide domination

BBC to pump coin into acquisitions, VOD, Web site

LONDON — BBC Worldwide is going on a spending spree and has earmarked India, North America and China for expansion.

Worldwide’s CEO John Smith indicated that the pubcaster’s commercial arm will borrow around $600 million to spend on acquisitions, video-on-demand and the advertising-supported Web site, BBC.com, due to bow next year.

According to an interview in the Financial Times, Smith will present plans to the Worldwide board this summer.

One option being examined is a pre-school channel in North America that would exploit the BBC’s children’s archive and attempt to repeat the success of its two U.K. digital children’s weblets.

In the U.K. Worldwide is looking at VOD services to defend its joint venture UKTV pay operation — run in partnership with Flextech — which has been hit by ITV and Channel 4’s extra channels launched on digital terrestrial platform Freeview.

Smith predicted that Worldwide, whose financial year is about to end, would beat its target of doubling profit from $63 million two years ago to more than $136 million this year.

Meanwhile UKTV CEO Dick Emery, formerly managing director of television at Worldwide, will retire in November.