BBC Studios, the commercial arm of Britain’s public broadcaster, has marked record growth for 2021/22 with profits up 50% year-on-year to £226 million ($267 million) and sales up 30% to £1.63 billion.
The past financial year marks the first time the business has topped £200 million in profits. Meanwhile, the boost in sales, which is up from £1.26 billion in the 2020/21 financial year, is due to a healthy year for production and advertising revenues via BBC Studios-backer broadcaster UKTV.
While there was no cash dividend returned to the BBC last year due to the pandemic, BBC Studios has this year contributed a dividend of £135 million to the broadcaster.
Crucially, the record growth has helped the business reach its target of £1.2 billion in returns to the BBC over the first five years of the current BBC Charter — a goal that was first set in October 2015, covering the period of 2017/18 through to 2021/22.
This year’s earnings are the first as CEO of BBC Studios for former chief financial officer Tom Fussell, who officially took the reins of Britain’s biggest production and distribution group last fall. He took over for Tim Davie, who is now director general of the BBC, in September 2020 on an interim basis before being named permanent CEO about a year later.
“Last year was stellar for BBC Studios, thanks to continued strong demand for our brands like ‘Strictly’/’Dancing with the Stars,’ ‘Time,’ ‘Bluey,’ and the ‘Planet’ series,” said Fussell. “Our creative and financial success is clear for all to see and I am so proud of our teams across the world who worked so hard to achieve this in extremely challenging conditions.
Fussell added: “With new freedom to invest, and a new commercial board, now is the time for the business to step up a gear. Despite an uncertain economic climate, we’re hugely confident about the opportunities ahead: and while this investment in future growth might impact on our profits over the short term, we know that we are building a business which can play a more significant role in the future of the BBC.”
BBC Studios has investments in a number of big British production companies, including Lookout Point, Baby Cow Productions, Expectation, Sid Gentle Films and Clerkenwell Films. The company recently added House Productions to its portfolio as well. In addition, the business also works with a healthy number of third-party producers. This increases the amount of titles it has to sell via its distribution operation.
In 2021/2022, the company made 2,400 hours of content worldwide. Meanwhile, production sales for BBC Studios were up 56%, with 25% of all new commissions coming from third-party producers.
Sales of content made more than £400 million thanks to key brands like “Doctor Who” and “Top Gear,” unscripted landmark shows such as “The Universe” and “Green Planet” and dramas from third-party producers, such as “The North Water,” “This is Going To Hurt” and “The Outlaws.”
UKTV also had a record year, with profit up 105% as the advertising market bounced back to boost revenues. The broadcaster’s channels, including Drama, Gold and Alibi, grew their audience share by 11%, 7% and 5%, respectively, in the 2021 calendar year, and Dave upped its share of the highly coveted 16-34 year-old demographic by 14% as audiences responded to investment in new original content. Streaming service UKTV Play also added 1 million registered users.
Going forward, BBC Studios has upped its targets by 30%. “With these results, and new headroom in the business’ ability to borrow opening up opportunities to invest, BBC Studios is in a strong position to build commercial income in line with BBC Group priorities,” the company claimed.
Elsewhere, BBC Studios also published its annual pay gap report, with details of pay gaps for gender, ethnicity, disability and LGBTQ+ employees broken down by career-level band and across global staff. The majority of career level bands show median pay gaps of within 5%, while the overall median gender pay gap is now below 10%. The company has said that new schemes to grow diversity are “impacting some pay gap metrics” in entry level roles.
Fussell added: “We’re amongst the most transparent in the media sector for pay gap disclosures, with breakdowns for gender, disability, ethnicity and LGBTQ+ across all levels of the business, as well as new data this year for our global staff. While there is much to be proud of as our gender pay gap continues to fall, inevitably these figures paint a picture of a work-in-progress, especially where we are investing in the talent of the future. We know there is work to do to achieve the equality we seek across the board, and we will work tirelessly to make this happen.”