The head of BBC Worldwide, Tim Davie, has signalled the need for creating further partnerships as global competition continues to intensify. "Partnership is what it’s about now,T said Davie, speaking at an RTS early-evening event held at Covent Garden’s The Hospital Club on 23 September.
The head of BBC Worldwide, Tim Davie, has signalled the need for creating further partnerships as global competition continues to intensify. On the day that Worldwide announced it had taken a 35% share in UK indie Lookout Point, producer of Ripper Street and Parade’s End, Davie said more alliances are on the cards.
“You will see more and more partnerships. We’re having partnership discussions with lots of people around the world… Partnership is what it’s about now,” said Davie, speaking at an RTS early-evening event held at Covent Garden’s The Hospital Club on 23 September.
Speculation has been rife that Worldwide’s US channel, BBC America, plans to set up a joint venture. One potential partner is cable channel AMC, which commissioned Mad Men and Breaking Bad, but the Worldwide chief refused to be drawn on specifics. It was reported in July that AMC was in talks with Worldwide about taking a 50% stake in BBC America.
Davie told his interviewer, Channel 4 News anchor Cathy Newman, that he was “interested” in BBC America having a new investor.
With a rapidly consolidating TV business, Davie stressed that it is more important than ever for BBC Worldwide to fly the flag for world-beating British content. The global demand for BBC drama such as Sherlock and natural history documentaries such as Frozen Planet (funded by seven different producers), remains strong, not least in emerging markets, notably Asia. In China, Worldwide is seeking a Chinese Jeremy Clarkson to front a local version of Top Gear.
So how would Davie define Britishness, probed Newman?
“Humour, irony, storytelling…” he replied. “Shows like Sherlock have got all these different layers of storytelling… My guys sometimes get frustrated that there are only three episodes of Sherlock. They’d like 60.”
Admitting that CEOs of media companies declaring that “content is king” had become a cliché, Davie nonetheless said it was, of course, truer than ever. This thirst for acquiring content is driving the latest round of consolidation. “All value is derived from content,” noted Davie, who revealed that BBC Worldwide’s investment in content is now “north of £200m” a year and would continue to grow.
“Prominence” is also vital in helping to future-proof TV businesses, a factor he said helped to explain Viacom’s purchase of Channel 5. “EPG slots have enormous value,” Davie argued. “This scramble is also about [achieving] prominence in a massively fragmented world.”
A full report of Tim Davie’s conversation with Cathy Newman will appear in the October edition of Television.
The producer was Martin Stott, Head of Corporate and Regulatory Affairs at Channel 5.
Report by Steve Clarke
Photos by Paul Hampartsoumian