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BBC Studios Raising Borrowing Limit To $764M As It Hunts For New ‘Bluey’

BBC Studios is increasing its debt facility by £250M ($318M) — a move that closely follows the acquisition of BritBox International, its biggest ever single transaction.

The agreement with a consortium of commercial banks brings the debt facility to £600M, up from £250M in 2022, the Financial Times reported. A plan to invest heavily in several areas such as family television will push down profitability this year, but will leave it well set to double revenues by 2027/28, as planned, BBC Studios CEO Tom Fussell told the FT.

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BBC Studios has government permission to increase this to £750M by 2027 if needed. Last year, Fussell told Deadline that while the BBC’s commercial wing had not gone over its previous £350M borrowing limit, “we have plans in due course to do so.”

On Friday, BBC Studios confirmed it had bought ITV out of their joint venture streamer BritBox International for £255M — a huge investment for the commercial arm of the UK’s public broadcaster, the BBC. The new debt facility will be used for similar kinds of investments, Deadline understands.

Part of the money will go to “really go out to the market” to find new kids and family series that can hit alongside mega-hit Bluey, which is among the most-streamed shows in the U.S, according to BBC Studios CEO Tom Fussell in an interview with the Financial Times.

“Bluey is the most streamed kids show in America at the moment, the second most streamed show in 2023,” he said. “We make all the sales, there’s a profit stream and everybody participates.”

Fussell also said BBC Studios would invest more in multichannel network UKTV, which is set for a rebrand and will receive more money for content, and the BBC website and app in the U.S. ahead of the Presidential election in November.

The BBC’s commercial unit has been targeting revenues of £3.2B annually in 2027, when the charter agreement comes up, with £450M returned to the BBC. This, in effect, doubles the size of the company’s business but is still well short of the £3.8B income the license fee provided last year.

Fussell also addressed how Doctor Who will roll out on Disney+, which now has international rights (including the U.S.) to the British sci-fi stalwart in his FT interview.

“Disney has invested a hell of a lot of money into that show, as has the BBC, so the editorial ambition has gone up a big notch with an amazing cast and amazing writer,” he said. It’s got new talent, and it’s got Disney behind it. You can never call it but it’s got everything behind it. That should work.”

Though the Disney+ pact raised eyebrows when first announced, Fussell has consistently defended the deal as a financial boon for the BBC. Today, he said: “The license-fee payer gets it in the UK. Disney are really going to go for the launch later this year, as the next season comes.”

Fussell also said BBC Studios will continue to invest in new shows, production companies, original programs and IP such as character rights and books — news that will provide some comfort to a UK production market that has been battered by reduced broadcaster tariffs and impacts of the U.S. labor strikes on its workforce.

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