BBC to Launch U.S. Video Service in 2016, Expand Global Operations

BBC chief Tony Hall has ruled out selling off its commercial division, BBC Worldwide

CAMBRIDGE, England — Tony Hall, the BBC’s director general, has ruled out selling off its commercial division, BBC Worldwide, stating that it is “an indivisible part of the BBC.” Instead, BBC Worldwide would expand its operations around the world, and plans to launch a video-streaming service in the U.S next year.

“It is because of its special relationship with the BBC that it has scale. Because of this, that it takes British creativity to the world. Because of this, that it brings the benefits of globalization back to the U.K.,” he told a gathering of U.K. television industry leaders.

Hall added that proposals to carve out BBC Worldwide from the BBC didn’t make economic sense. “While every major global player is creating a more integrated system, it would make no sense for us to go the other way and break up a system that is delivering returns that are essential to support public service programs,” he told delegates at the Royal Television Society convention in Cambridge, England, on Thursday.

BBC Worldwide, which sells British shows worldwide and runs the BBC’s international channels, generated revenue of £1 billion ($1.55 billion) and profits of £226 million ($350 million) last year. Hall said the plan was to increase BBC Worldwide’s profits to £1.2 billion ($1.86 billion) over the next five years — more than 15% higher than the returns of the previous five years.

He said that part of that extra profit would come from international partnerships with major media companies, such as its deal with AMC in the U.S.

“Over the next few years, we intend to work with global partners to grow BBC Worldwide further, taking advantage of the demand for British programming and new digital opportunities,” he said.

BBC Worldwide has just signed a joint venture with Sony Multi-Screen-Media to launch a BBC Earth channel in India, and will launch an over-the-top video service in the U.S. offering BBC programs next year, he said. No further details of the U.S. service were revealed.

“We’ll begin to try out businesses that go direct to the public,” he said. “Next year — we’re launching a new OTT video service in America offering BBC fans programs they wouldn’t otherwise get — showcasing British actors, our program-makers, and celebrating our culture.”

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