Summary:

BBC Worldwide is ringfencing early BBC.com profits for its journalism operation and writing value off its travel publisher thanks to currency markets.

Dan Heaf
photo: Matt Biddulph

BBC Worldwide applied the “blur” filter to some of its online flagships’ finances when it reported latest annual disclosures on Monday.

“BBC.com delivered another year of excellent revenue growth, and significant profit uplift on the back of the previous year’s move towards profitability,” the company’s 2011/12 annual report reported, cryptically.

Actual BBC.com profitability or otherwise is unclear, though BBCWW claimed it was in the black a year ago. Changes are nevertheless coming – on Monday, BBC Worldwide’s annual report also announced:

“In the year ahead, as directed by the BBC Executive Board in January 2012, we will pass ownership of the news areas of the site over to Global News, enabling it to reinvest profits from the news areas of BBC.com into its core news journalism functions.

“We expect to continue to own and operate the other areas of BBC.com and we will work closely with Global News to help to continue to drive BBC.com’s performance forward as an important part of the BBC Worldwide digital portfolio.”

The effect is to ringfence relevant online news profits for the news division, the BBC having identified journalism as its key priority.

BBC Worldwide, whose online activities are led by Dan Heaf, has this year also rejigged how it reports digital content revenue. It says a single category of “digital” revenue rose from 8.1 percent of total a year earlier to 12.8 percent, without citing specifics (but that equals £138.88 million).

A year earlier, in 2010/11, BBC Worldwide had made £27.1 million in digital entertainment revenue (BBC.com ad sales, Global iPlayer and a games business) plus a further £54.8 million in digital revenue from cross-division activities, totalling £81.9. Effectively, then, BBCWW digital revenue is up 69 percent this year – no reason to hide that.

BBCWW said its Global iPlayer trial has “so far met the targets set for the pilot”, but it did not report any statistics on that.

The Melbourne-based company is also writing £16.1 million off the value of its Lonely Planet travel publisher, blamed on the high Australian dollar currency against the U.S. dollar and euro.

The group has shed staff and moved much of its online activities to BBCWW in London and its mobile outfit to Oakland, California, over the last year in a cost-cutting move.

The controversy over whether the BBC should divest Lonely Planet for underlying reasons is taking a back seat to the problem of an Australian publisher being owned by a British company focused on the States.

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