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BBC Worldwide reports record profits

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BBC Worldwide has reported record profits for the past year as demand for BBC brands such as Top Gear and Doctor Who helped revenue exceed £1bn for the second year running.

Published today, Worldwide's annual review for the 12 months to March 31, 2010 revealed that profits were up 36.5% year-on-year to £145.2m. Overall sales revenue was up 7% year-on-year to £1.074bn.

The BBC's commercial arm was significantly buoyed by strong performance of its international channels business, along with exploitation of its top five programming brands, Top Gear, Life, Planet Earth, Being Erica and Doctor Who.

Despite tough operating conditions, six of Worldwide's seven international divisions increased their sales figures, with five reporting double-digit profit growth.

The BBC's commercial arm also delivered a dividend payment of £73.6m to the BBC, which was up from £68.4m in the previous 12 months.

BBC Worldwide chief executive John Smith, who took home total pay of £823,000 last year, up 47% year-on-year, said that the results represented resilient performance in the face of tough market conditions.

"Today's figures, with profits up by 36.5%, demonstrate that our strategy is working. As well as developing into a diversified global media business and extending the international visibility of the BBC brand, the company is delivering a strong financial performance," said Smith.

"BBC Worldwide continues to give consumers around the world more and more content from the BBC and other British production companies. This allows us to reinvest in more great content and return more cash to our parent organisation, the BBC."

Worldwide's channel business, which runs a portfolio of 41 TV channels including BBC America, reported a 16.4% increase in sales to £262.6m, with profits up 34.2% to £39.2m.

Revenues at the digital media operation, which includes BBC.com, grew by 9% to £30m, helping the division bring its losses down to £20.8m from £29m in the previous year.

The BBC Magazines division, which publishes titles such as Radio Times and Top Gear magazine, saw a 1.3% fall in revenue to £168.3m. However, profits were actually up at the division by 13.6% to £18.4m due to a "significant" cost-cutting programme. Travel guide business Lonely Planet also moved back into profit after a period of sustained investment.

Worldwide's home entertainment business, which includes DVD, audio and music sales, reported a 2.1% rise in revenue to £230m, delivering profits of £40.3m. DVD distributor 2entertain, which Worldwide took full control of in March, was responsible for £38.2m of those profits.

"Our underlying aim is to give the best possible return to licence fee payers to deliver a real benefit to the UK's creative economy," said Worldwide chairman Robert Webb.

"To that end, we have invested more than £1bn through payments to the BBC, independent production companies, writers and actors since 2004/05. We hope, as the next year develops, to continue to be of value to the UK, to the BBC and to all who enjoy what we do."

BBC director general Mark Thompson added: "BBC Worldwide continues to contribute significantly to the BBC through its overall returns and dividend and what is clear from this outstanding year of success is that the global appetite for outstanding British content is greater than ever before."

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