BBC seeks partners for its magazines business

The BBC is seeking a partner for the magazines division of its commercial arm, BBC Worldwide, a move that is likely to rule out an outright sale of the business. BBC Worldwide has appointed KPMG to help it find a partner for the magazine business, although no details have been given on the shape of the deal.

A statement say: “We confirmed to BBC Worldwide staff on Friday that following a review of our Magazines business, we are seeking a partnership with another company to enable our portfolio of profitable market-leading titles to meet its potential, while still protecting the BBC’s editorial standards and brands.

“BBC Magazines hopes to hold preliminary conversations with interested companies in the coming weeks. But we will only proceed if we can find an appropriate partner, who understands the BBC’s values and brands, and if we are able to structure a deal that works for both parties and delivers value back to the BBC. We have outline support from the BBC Trust for us to now test the water, but we would still need Trust approval on any eventual partnership.”

The portfolio of publications includes Top Gear, Radio Times and Gardeners’ World magazines. In 2008-09 it made an operating profit of £11.5m, down 31% on the previous year, although sales rose 2.4% to £182.2m. It sells about 85m magazines a month and is the UK’s fourth largest-publisher in that sub-sector.

Today’s announcement follows the strategic review of the BBC’s operations earlier this year which said that the corporation would put “clearer limits” on the activities of its commercial arm, BBC Worldwide, focusing on its international and digital activities. It said at the time that it would be “looking to move away from physical media [such as magazines] in the UK”.

The review also said the BBC had already implemented the findings on a BBC Trust-ordered review of BBC Worldwide’s activities, published last year. It included a new remit for BBC Worldwide, which excluded any activity “not in keeping with the BBC brand”, and ruled out future undertakings similar to its controversial purchase of the Lonely Planet travel guides business.

This story first appeared on pitch