BBC scoops deal to publish top-selling Disney kids' mag

LONDON – BBC Worldwide is to launch a UK version of W.i.t.c.h., the Disney comic that is available in 68 countries around the world and considered the world's fourth-largest selling magazine.

The children's title has already netted Disney £56m after selling 20m copies worldwide. It is considered the fourth top-selling magazine behind Cosmopolitan, Elle and Readers Digest.

The deal is a massive scoop for the corporation because introducing the comic into its portfolio of 26 top-selling titles, including Radio Times and Top Gear, could significantly boost the value of the BBC's publishing arm, which may be sold off.

The BBC has reportedly been in talks with media giants including Time Warner, Disney and Bertelsmann, to discuss selling off parts of BBC Worldwide, which is valued at a total of £2bn.

BBC Worldwide owns 10 channels including UKTV stations, BBC America, and 26 magazines. Last year, it had revenues of £657m and generated £141m profit, which was ploughed back into the BBC.

The corporation is understood to be considering a possible break-up of the company, which also owns merchandising operations and overseas programme sales, rather than an outright sale.

The deal would be timed to coincide with a government study of BBC funding, which would be crucial to its Charter Renewal.

A BBC spokeswoman said: "BBC Magazines is joining forces with Disney Publishing Worldwide to launch a pre-teen magazine in the UK in 2005, based around the hugely popular W.i.t.c.h. brand."

BBC Magazines' leading children's portfolio currently includes three pre-teen Disney titles: Disney's Animated Adventures, launched by BBC Magazines last year; Disney Girl, launched by BBC Magazines in 2002; and Disney's Big Time, which transferred to BBC Magazines.

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