Mindful of its BBC parent’s current fiscal challenges, BBC Video is shooting to play hero by upping its output of TV on DVD and boosting the unit’s profitability in the process.
Execs say they are confident of pulling off that mission despite budget and staff cuts at the parent company, which have resulted in a downturn in actual BBC productions. It also won’t help that a new government policy will see BBC-produced titles going out for bid rather than directly to BBC Video.
But execs are planning to cope with the situation–and break new revenue ground in the process–by aggressively pursuing rights to non-BBC TV titles to keep the DVD releases flowing.
BBC Video–which uses Warner Home Video to distribute its product–is already on a revenue roll, thanks to the U.S. breakthrough of BBC-produced mockumentary The Office. The unit’s sales rose 20% in its recently concluded fiscal year, following a 30% jump over the previous 12 months, and it’s projecting a 10% improvement in 2005-06.
To date, about 70% of BBC Video content has been derived from BBC-produced shows.
“Because of the whole review of the BBC, and changes in how the indie community works with the BBC, we are in a state of flux with acquisitions for DVD,” said Burton Cromer, BBC Worldwide Americas consumer products VP. “Before it was a much clearer process, and now there is more competition for rights.”
But execs feel they already have identified one potential future hit, upcoming DVD release Knowing Me Knowing You With Alan Partridge. The show is airing on cable TV’s BBC America, and early reviews have been encouraging.
Created by Talkback Production for the BBC, Knowing Me streets Aug. 30 on DVD for $29.98.
Elsewhere on its DVD sale is Charlie & Lola, bowing on the Disney Channel this year from U.K. indie producer Tiger Aspect Productions and debuting on disc by the end of 2005.
Other comedies Father Ted and Peep Show hail from U.K.’s Channel 4 from indies Hat Trick Prods. and Objective Prods., respectively, and originally acquired on BBC America. And U.K. phenom Little Britain should land on DVD domestically sometime next year.
“This is a best of Britain strategy,” Cromer said. “We need to export British programming to the U.S. that’s not necessarily BBC in-house.”
Retailers seem bullish about the British imports.
“The shows do wind up doing better on DVD,” said Bart Saunt, Virgin Entertainment Group senior visual product manager. “There’ll be a groundswell of opinion from people watching the TV shows. But once you’ve heard of something, it’s half-way over, so you’ll just wait for the DVD.”
Meanwhile, Virgin is stocking up on further copies of BBC Video’s The Office. The chain figures that last month’s launch of NBC’s version starring Steve Carell will wash another wave of good word-of-mouth onto British comedies.