This company brings the sights and sounds of the British Broadcasting Corporation practically everywhere. BBC Worldwide is the commercial business arm of the publicly supported UK broadcasting giant. It distributes BBC programming to international markets and licenses international versions of programs that are made in other countries. BBC Worldwide also oversees a portfolio of TV channels, including BBC America, BBC Entertainment, and BBC Lifestyle. The BBC Charter and Agreement sets out commercial criteria for BBC Worldwide. The company must comply with Public Purposes as set out in the Charter, be commercially efficient, not jeopardize the BBC brand, and uphold the BBC's Fair Trading Guidelines.
Funded mostly through public subsidies, the BBC is focused on serving the public interest rather than making profits, so commercial revenue generated through BBC Worldwide helps fund programming and other initiatives beyond what the license fee can support. BBC Worldwide accounts for about 15% of the BBC's revenue.
Critics, however, have charged that the BBC has an unfair advantage over commercial media operations because of its publicly-subsidized nature. The BBC Trust, which oversees the public broadcasting business, has responded to those concerns by trying to scale back some of BBC Worldwide's international activities. As such, a BBC Trust review declared it would divest all non-BBC branded international channels.
As part of this strategy, in 2010 BBC Worldwide exited its joint venture with US-based Discovery Communications. Through that venture, BBC Worldwide owned 50% of Discovery's global TV channel Animal Planet. It sold its stake for $156 million. BBC Worldwide and Discovery continue to operate a programming partnership for co-productions and acquisitions for North America that ends in 2014. The partnership has produced programs such as Planet Earth, The Blue Planet, and Wonders Of The Solar System.
The company continued to exit non-core operations in 2011, when it sold titles published by BBC Magazines (Radio Times, Gardens Illustrated) to Exponent Private Equity. Wishing to steer clear of the challenges facing the consumer magazines market, the company sold the publishing operations in order to focus strictly on its video and digital services.