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'Doctor Who', 'Sherlock' help BBC Worldwide post bumper profits

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Sherlock S02E03: 'The Reichenbach Fall'

© BBC / Hartswood

The popularity of BBC brands such as Doctor Who, Top Gear and Sherlock helped commercial arm BBC Worldwide generate another bumper profit last year.

Worldwide, the division that sells and markets the BBC's content around the world, today (July 16) announced an 8% rise in headline profit to £155 million for the financial year 2011/12.

Profit before tax was up 13% on a like-for-like basis to £104m, after Worldwide increased its headlines sales by 5% to £1,085m in the 12 months to March 31, 2012 - the fourth successive year that sales have topped £1 billion.

The profit figure excludes the total £121m earned by Worldwide in the sale and licensing deals for its BBC Magazines division, agreed last year.

BBC Worldwide's top-selling brands featured all the usual suspects, including Top Gear, Doctor Who, Frozen Planet, Torchwood, Spooks, Sherlock, Planet Earth and Natural World, each of which were sold in over 100 markets.

The five core BBC brands - Top Gear, Doctor Who, Lonely Planet, Dancing with the Stars (the international version of Strictly Come Dancing) and BBC Earth - accounted for 30% of Worldwide's headline sales.

Top Gear presenters Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson, James May
Worldwide also shifted 1.5m tickets to its live shows across ten countries in 2011/12.

The strong performance helped increase the amount of money Worldwide put back into the BBC, as the overall return grew by 19% to a record £216m - a welcome windfall as the mainly licence-fee funded corporation is facing ongoing spending cuts.

Since 2004, Worldwide has returned over £1.3bn to the BBC.

International sales of British content by Worldwide increased by 9% over the year.

Digital increased to 13% of overall net sales, up from 8% in 2010/11. This was driven by strong growth in sales to subscription video-on-demand providers - BBC TV shows have been downloaded 31m times around the world to date.

Alongside syndicating its digital content, the BBC has also launched the global version of online TV platform iPlayer, which is now available in 16 markets, including western Europe, Canada and Australia.

BBC Worldwide's games division released 11 games over the year, resulting in 3.5 million downloads.

BBC logo at BBC Television Centre
John Smith, the chief executive of BBC Worldwide, said that the company's role in driving growth for the BBC and UK creative industries was more important than ever considering the tough financial climate.

"We are proud of the record financial contribution we made to the BBC in addition to our role in championing UK shows, brands and talent around the world," he stated.

"These results have enabled BBC Worldwide to return £216m to the BBC, supporting development of world-class, original content in the context of a tighter licence fee.

"BBC Worldwide also distributed programmes and formats produced by more than 200 UK independent producers in the year. I am proud of the unique role we play in helping our sectors of the UK creative industries to expand through exports."

Mark Thompson, the outgoing BBC director general and chairman of BBC Worldwide, said that he was "proud" of the contribution of the corporation's commercial arm to Britain.

"Serving as director general of the BBC gives me a unique perspective on the value created by BBC Worldwide," explained Thompson.

"In the last eight years, revenue has almost doubled, headline profits have grown four-fold, and over £1.3bn has been returned to the BBC.

"In a tough financial environment, BBC Worldwide delivered a record £215.7m return to the BBC in the year. I am proud of the work BBC Worldwide does to support not just the BBC, but Britain's creative industries."

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