BBC could retire old shows to help free up slots for new ideas, report says

A report has been published by the National Audit Office following an internal BBC review.
A report has been published by the National Audit Office following an internal BBC review.

Slots at the BBC could be freed up to make room for new ideas, a report has suggested.

The report, from public spending watchdog the National Audit Office (NAO), said an internal review at the BBC found the corporation could "retire more shows where this made sense from an audience point of view, in order to free up slots for new ideas".

The review took place in November last year.

The NAO report also said that the BBC faced "a number of important challenges and risks", following the success of streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime.

According to the report, the BBC could lose the ability to make programmes in a certain genre should its commercial operation, BBC Studios, be unsuccessful in commissions too frequently.

The BBC Studios division was set up in April 2017 and competes with independent companies for tenders to create programmes, such as A Question Of Sport, Holby City, Doctors, and Songs Of Praise.

It said: "In addition to losing programmes in open competition, Studios could also lose work if BBC PSB (public service broadcasting) decides to retire old formats.

"The likelihood of this happening increased in November 2017 when an internal PSB review of the tendering process for recommissioning existing programmes recommended retiring more shows, where this made sense from an audience point of view, in order to free up slots for new ideas."

The BBC's commercial wing made revenue of £1.2 billion in 2016-17 for the corporation - a figure considered to be "broadly stable" - while only one of its subsidiaries has made profit throughout the last five years.

The financial watchdog said the BBC had to strike the right balance when developing new programming and formats, stating: "It will need to manage risk carefully to ensure that the funds it invests in such projects have the greatest impact possible in a crowded marketplace."

Worldwide, which accounts for 90% of the BBC's commercial revenue from the sale of TV contents and formats internationally, turned in an after-tax profit of £40.4 million in 2016-2017.

This was less than a third of the of £127.6 million it made in profits in 2012-2013 due to two large one-off costs including the write-off of £12.5 million following the closure of BBC Store.

Worldwide made £450 million of direct payments for programmes shown on the BBC's PSB outlets between 2012 and 2017. It also paid dividends of £423 million, of which £312 million went to supplement licence fee income in the PSB divisions, and retained £111 million in its commercial reserves.

The bulk of BBC funding, £3.8 billion, comes via the licence fee.