BBC’s push to make money from its overseas businesses, particularly online, had a good boost this morning, when the international site, BBC.com, announced that it has reached profitability — two years ahead of schedule. But there is still no specific date for the much-anticipated international launch of the BBC’s online VOD and catchup service, iPlayer.
While the BBC refrains to give actual revenue and profit figures for BBC.com, it does provide some other good stats in a blog post from Luke Bradley-Jones, the MD of BBC.com and Global iPlayer. These underscore how well the not-for-profit has picked up the baton on being a commercial entity since first launching the site in 2007.
— Ad sales have grown by 83 percent in the last year. In the U.S. that growth was actually 113 percent. In the last year BBC worked with more than 500 advertisers.
— Users are now up to 50 million outside of the UK, according to comScore (NSDQ: SCOR). In Norther America, the monthly audience is now 21 million; in Asia Pacific it is 10 million.
— Strong use of site in non-English countries. BBC says it is now the most popular news website in Europe (excluding UK), among “affluent households,” as measured by the EMS.
Overall digital sales we up 31.5 percent this year to £81.9 million, according to the BBC’s annual report released earlier this week.
Bradley-Jones notes in the blog that the BBC has been conscientious of getting the right balance between local content and global news — an area where its reputation has traditionally been strongest outside the UK, with the radio’s BBC World Service leading the charge.
As sites increasingly reach for audiences that are further afield from their home base, this is an increasingly important point — one that some argue has not been addressed well enough yet by one of the more high-profile online news launches of late in the UK — that of the AOL-owned HuffingtonPost.co.uk, which is heavy on U.S. content.
For its part, the BBC notes that it has launched a distinct editions of the BBC.com for various regions including Asia Pacific and North America, where it has invested in a team of journalists based in Washington, DC, to “curate” and write for it.
What has been clearly left out of today’s update are any more details on when we might see the launch of the Global iPlayer service, which also falls under Bradley-Jones’ remit. Prior to today, the BBC had already said that the service will launch first as an iPad app rather than a website — which gives the BBC greater control over how it is distributed and how many people use the service. paidContent understands that it will be available by the end of August and first in Western Europe before extending to other markets like North America.
While the BBC is still prepping the iPlayer, it is also looking to distribute videos online via a new partnership with Facebook, announced earlier this week.
What Bradley-Jones does point out, though, is that BBC.com’s other app efforts have been seeing strong demand. Specifically, its BBC Global News app for iPad and iPhone, has been downloaded 4 million times outside the UK. The Android app, meanwhile, launched last month, has already seen half a million downloads outside the UK. No word yet on how its TV apps (eg with Samsung) are performing.