BBC Worldwide raises money by selling magazine division to Exponent

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BBC Magazines titles include Top Gear, Radio Times, Good Food and Top of the Pops.

BBC has sold its consumer magazines portfolio in a 121 million pound ($ 200 million) deal with Exponent. The deal comprises of more than 30 magazines that were produced by BBC Worldwide and includes the outright sale of titles “less closely aligned” to BBC programming, such as Olive and Gardens Illustrated and Radio Times.

BBC will however retain control overbrands such as Top Gear, Lonely Planet and Good Food whereas Exponent will act as a contract publisher. BBC Magazines, a part of the BBC Worldwide division, will transfer the ownership of Gardeners’ World to Exponent, while keeping some editorial control.

BBC Magazine is the UKs 4th largest publisher of magazines, selling more than 82 million copies per year. Its magazine business extends to popular online editions such as radiotimes.com, gardenersworld.com, and bbcgoodfood.com.

TRANSFERRED MAGAZINES

BBC Worldwide had announced the possibility of selling its magazines arm back in early 2010. BBC Trust Chairman, Sir Michael Lyons, had said that the organization was rewriting its remit so that BBC could focus on its core intellectual property and public service. The UK public broadcaster insists the decision was made keeping in eye all parts of the companys operations.

Exponent will be taking over all of the Worldwide magazines that are not branded by BBC, such as Olive and Gardens Illustrated, as well as obtaining the rights to publish 33 BBC-branded titles. Among these magazines are Top Gear, and Radio Times, the latter having being part of BBC Worldwide since 1923.

Other titles that will be licensed by Exponent include Gardeners World and BBC Wildlife.

A BBC spokesperson said that although the broadcasting company will no longer own the 18 titles branded by its programs, it will maintain a strong continuing editorial interest under licensing agreements.

Top Gear, Good Food, Lonely Planet and Radio Times are the 4 titles that will be retained by BBC Worldwide, but published by the equity firm.

Not only has the firm taken over several BBC magazines, it has also obtained its stakes in Dovetail – the subscription fulfillment operation it runs as a joint venture with Dennis Publishing, and Frontline – the distribution joint venture it runs with Bauer Media and Haymarket Publishing.

ADDITIONAL SELL-OFFS

BBC Worldwide has also agreed to sell 50% of its shareholding in Worldwide Media, a magazine publishing joint venture in India, the owner of Times of India and one of its fellow shareholders, Bennett, Coleman & Co Ltd. (BCCL).

Titles, including the Indian editions of Grazia, Hello, Top Gear and Lonely Planet are under Worldwide Medias publishing.

Exponent, which also owns Magicalia, publishes a range of parenting, motorcycling and outdoor magazines. It aims to purchase Origin, a specialist publisher in which BBC Magazines holds a 39% stake. BBC took a stake in Origin 7 years ago and owns several titles, including Blonde Hair and Perfect Wedding.

John Smith, Chief executive of BBC Worldwide, insisted the deal offers the best prospects for the magazines business to continue on this path of success” while BBC Worldwide pursues a strategy increasingly focused on international video and digital services. “The magazine market faces a number of challenges, and this transaction brings a focus and degree of investment that BBC Worldwide alone is unable to provide,” he said in a statement.

The BBC Magazines reported a 0.4% year-on-year fall in revenues to 164.5m for 12 months. However, profits rose by 9.1% to 21.6m due to the growth in demand for specialist titles such as Good Food and Olive.

Sources: Guardian, The New York Times, BBC

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