BBC Worldwide has linked up with US-based Internet investor TH Lee Global Internet Managers, LP, which has agreed to pump &£32.5m into a new subsidiary company, Beeb Ventures, comprising e-commerce site Beeb.com and Internet access provider Freebeeb.net.
BBC Worldwide says the capital will be channelled into e-commerce partnerships and key technology developments, such as interactive TV, mobile phone and ADSL (asymmetric digital subscriber line) platforms.
The deal means that Beeb.com, launched in 1997 as a commercial content and entertainment site, will receive an extra &£7m for marketing.
Freebeeb.net, the BBC’s Internet service provider, which launched in conjunction with Thus last year to provide free Web access, will now be able to develop improved search facilities.
The investment by THLi gives it a minority stake in Beeb Ventures, which is valued at &£240m. As part of the agreement, THLi managing directors Jeffrey Coats and Sharon Pipe will join the new company’s board of directors.
BBC Worldwide chief executive Rupert Gavin says: “The deal comes at a time of exceptional market opportunity, due to a forecast of explosive growth in UK e-commerce.
He adds: “THLi’s investment and expertise, together with the strength of the BBC brand, gives Beeb.com and Freebeeb.net a major strategic advantage.”