BBC Worldwide

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BBC Worldwide Limited is the wholly-owned commercial subsidiary of the British Broadcasting Corporation, formed out of a restructuring of its predecessor BBC Enterprises in 1995. BBC Enterprises had been operating the commercial exploitation of BBC programmes and other properties for the previous twenty years, having been a successor of BBC Exploitation, a department set up to oversee the commercial exploitation of programme properties through books, toys and the like in the early 1960s.

Worldwide is responsible for a wide range of commercial activities, primarily connected in some way with the output of the main BBC. The company's work includes investment in film and television production - Worldwide will often provide additional budget for BBC productions in return for various commercial rights to the programmes, and has recently experimented in doing so for non-BBC programmes as well, such as the Red Production Company drama Mine All Mine for the BBC's rival ITV network.

Other major areas of business include international programming sale and distribution, foreign and domestic satellite and cable television channels (such as UK Gold in the UK and BBC America in the United States), book and magazine publishing (most famously the Radio Times), VHS and DVD releases, spoken word and music audio products, CD-ROMs, English language teaching, videos for education and training, interactive telephony, library footage sales, magazine subscription fulfillment, exhibitions, live events, film and media monitoring.

These commercial activities allow BBC Worldwide to return profits to the BBC to re-invest in public service programming (123 million during 2002/03). However, the BBC has often been criticised in recent years for the amount of money it makes from Worldwide, given that it is supposed to be a non-commercial organisation, and commercial rivals for the goods and services Worldwide provides protest at the huge advantage the company has from being associated with and able to exploit the programme catalogue and resources of the BBC. There has been much speculation that the BBC is planning to sell off at least some of Worldwide's assets, such as the magazine publishing arm (one of the largest in the UK), to appease these criticisms and make a large profit from the sale in the process.

In July 2004, it was announced that Worldwide's DVD release company, BBC Video, which had been releasing BBC programmes on the format and previously on videotape since the early 1980s, was to be merged with VCI, a video release company controlled by Woolworths Group plc. The new company created, '2 entertain Ltd', is to be controlled 60% by Worldwide and 40% by Woolworths Group plc. This creates the sixth biggest video company in the UK market, and the largest British-owned brand. Worldwide would retain rights in all the BBC output released by the new company.

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