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Fleetwood declares intent to acquire BBC OB

27 September 2007

Fleetwood Mobiles, the live broadcast and recording specialist, has tossed its hat into the ring to buy BBC Outside Broadcast, which is currently for sale as part of the BBC Resources Ltd package. The company has issued a statement expressing its interest in bidding for BBC OB as a means to strengthen its position as one of Europe’s leading independent live audio business, writes Adrian Pennington.

According to Fleetwood’s co-director and co-owner Ian Cooper: “There are rumours out there and we’d rather get our own story across before rumours spread. We’ve completed the required transaction questionnaire to meet the BBC’s deadline earlier this month so our name along with other potential bidders would be in the public domain very shortly anyway.”

Fleetwood is primarily interested in any audio contracts that may be sold along with BBC OBs and not Resources’ studios or post production divisions. Cooper stresses however that the firm remains very much in the dark about the Corporation’s intentions.

“They haven’t made it very clear. We understand that they are looking for continuity of service which would make it very attractive to us. Somebody has to carry on providing those services and hopefully we’d be best placed to do it but we’re not sure if specific contracts would come with a sale or if contracts will be put out to tender and we’d have to bid for them on a job for job basis.”

Fleetwood Mobiles works regularly for the BBC. Most recently it mixed the DVD for coverage of Live Earth and provided audio support for the Diana memorial concert. Contracts to manage the live audio for The Proms and Glastonbury would be prized by the firm but the video portion of the OB business or sports contracts like the London Marathon and Wimbledon are of less interest.

“Ideally we’re interested in just the audio side but if video came with it we could decide to manage that division ourselves or offload the pictures to another party.”

Cooper along with co-directors Tim Summerhayes and Ian Dyckhoff acquired Sanctuary Mobiles in a management buyout in November 2005 after selling the original Fleetwood Mobiles to the company a few years earlier. Since then and reverting back to its original name it has embarked on a growth strategy. It employs 12 core staff and operates three mobile sound recording trucks and a post production audio and studio facility in Denham.

BBC Outside Broadcasts has a fleet of over 90 SD and HD vehicles. Key clients include BBC Sport and independents such as North One, TWI and Sunset & Vine.

“One of the reasons we’re looking to expand is that we have excess capacity within our infrastructure at present,” explains Cooper. “We would add value to BBC OBs with our expertise in live audio. A lot of our work is now in Europe and that’s a new market we could take BBC OB into.”

BBC OBs turned-over around _50m in 2005/6 but Cooper is reluctant to put a figure on its value.

“We don’t really know how the BBC would split the group up, or even if they will since they’ve not formally declared how the sale will proceed,” he says. “Nor how they would apportion the specific assets or what support packages and infrastructure would come with it. We’ve stated our intent and if there’s interest from them we’ll talk.”

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