BBC to launch venture capital unit for global deals
LONDON - The BBC is set to unveil a new venture capital arm that will allow the world's largest public service broadcaster to sell its broadcasting services across the globe.
The new business, BBC Vectra, will exploit public private partnerships to launch new start-up businesses using BBC technology and services, which can later be sold, floated or operated as joint ventures.
BBC Vectra is part of BBC Ventures and, according to a report in the Financial Times, it has an ambitious target of launching a dozen companies over the next three years.
It is not the first time the BBC has worked with outside investors. In 2000, BBC Worldwide took on its first commercial partner for its internet businesses, when US private equity group TH Lee Global Internet Managers took a £32.5m stake in Beeb Ventures Limited.
The new operation is likely to expose the BBC to more flak from its rivals, who argue that the corporation is too commercial and that it is straying too far from its public service remit.
Such charges were denied by Gavyn Davies, the BBC chairman, who said that the BBC commercial ventures were profitable and were all about putting money back into the BBC.
"Virtually all of our commercial subsidiaries are profitable and have returned well over £100m in cash," he told the FT. "So it's not a question of all these commercial ventures somehow sucking the lifeblood out of the licence fee, but the reverse."
BBC Vectra replaces an existing start-up venture, Kingswood Warren Ventures, and will be headed up by Mark Popkiewicz, a former executive at US telecoms group Lucent Technology.
The first business being launched is a wireless-based one, with at least two others focusing on broadcasting graphics and sound systems already under consideration.
"We want to develop more and more durable and successful partnerships from many aspects of our business with the public, universities, museums. We want to develop public-public and public-private partnerships," Davies told the paper.
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