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National Audit Office warns of streaming threat to BBC

Broadcaster cites BBC Studios as fending off competition

The BBC’s commercial division must up its game in order to compete with the streamers, the National Audit Office (NAO) has warned.

The public spending watchdog said it was too early to tell whether the creation of BBC Studios has delivered value for money, warning there was still work to do and a wide contrast in profitability between different business areas.

“The way we watch TV is changing, and the BBC knows that it must move with the times. BBC Studios is one example of this, and the merger has got off to an encouraging start,” said NAO head Gareth Davies. “The BBC now needs to make sure that it understands the impact its largest commercial subsidiary is having, including its risks and weaknesses as well as its successes.”

The broadcaster responded that BBC Studios’ profit grew more than 50 per cent to £159 million following a streaming partnership with Discovery, a deal with UKTV and more than 30 commissions from the likes of Netflix and Apple.

However it agreed there was more work to be done, outlining a three-year culture and engagement plan to improve the experience of working at BBC Studios, aiming to create “a more integrated, collaborative culture, where creativity further flourishes, diverse individuals feel more included and both individual and company performance increases.”

The BBC also agreed to have its Commercial Holdings Board review more detailed non-financial performance metrics alongside financial performance “to ensure a robust value-for-money and governance framework for BBC Studios.”

“We’re proud of BBC Studios’ global success and its contribution to the BBC and British creative industries,” the BBC said. “We have confidence in its considerable potential and believe that it will continue to create world-class content and generate returns that boost the BBC’s overall income and enable us to show more of the programme and services our audiences love.”