The BBC has announced it’s to merge production arm, BBC Studios with commercial operation, BBC Worldwide to form a single commercial organisation, to be called BBC Studios.
Newly approved by the BBC Board, the move comes as the corporation seeks a way forward in an ever-more competitive market where, as Director General Tony Hall recently warned, the rise of the likes of Netflix and Amazon could result in a £500 million a year drop in the amount available to spend on British television over the next ten years.
The merger will mean integration of programme production, sales, and distribution in a single entity, with the news release arguing that the intellectual property value of BBC programming will be maximised for the benefit of UK licence payers.
Tony Hall says:
“In a fast-changing TV industry, securing the future success of the BBC is vital. Creating a single BBC Studios will bring the BBC in line with the industry, be simpler and more efficient. It will help ensure that licence fee payers in the UK continue to receive outstanding British programmes which reflect British lives, long into the future.
“It will also ensure the BBC can continue to play its crucial role in supporting the successful UK creative economy.”
Reshaping the BBC to make it better able to cope in the digital era is plainly high on Hall’s agenda, with this announcement following his earlier appearance before MPs where he revealed that plans for a new paid-for streaming service are in development. Following the closure of the short-lived download-to-keep service BBC Store, the prospective new service enabling access to archive programmes is likely to be linked to the popular BBC iPlayer.
It’s too early to make an informed prediction as to what the merger will mean for Doctor Who. BBC Worldwide has undoubtedly done a very effective job in marketing the programme all over the world in recent years with an astonishing 239 countries now purchasing the show. It seems likely that efforts to further exploit the commercial potential of hit shows will only increase as a result of the move, something that worries Ben Dowell of Radio Times who argues in an opinion piece that commercial considerations mustn’t be allowed to interfere with the distinctive ‘Britishness’ that makes the BBC’s programmes so popular in the first place.
One thing that is striking in the news from the BBC is that Strictly Come Dancing has now been internationally licensed 54 times as Dancing With The Stars. It’s surely a thought that strikes terror into the heart of most Doctor Who fans, but is it possible that one day the corporation will give the go-ahead for international versions of the show?
Maybe not, but the notion is indicative of the kind of hard-nosed commercial thinking which we’re going to see a lot more of in the coming years. Let us know what you think below!