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January 6, 2011

BBC ‘looks to retain ownership of key magazine titles’

By Alex Sharp

Despite offering to sell off its magazine division last year, BBC Worldwide is planning to retain ownership and control over a number of leading titles, according to a report this morning.

Sources told the Daily Telegraph the BBC has proposed dividing its titles into three blocks; one of which would be sold, including titles like the Radio Times, another would see BBC branded magazines licensed to a rival publisher for ten years.

A third block would see titles tied to popular brands, like Top Gear, produced under a contract-publishing deal with the corporation maintaining ownership while a new publishing board would be formed to take decisions.

Last year, it was understood that the corporation’s preferred course of action was to sell its magazine business to a single publisher by forming a new business with the partner organisation taking an 85 per cent majority share.

BBC Magazines runs a portfolio of around 30 mainly spin-off titles from popular television shows and uses its magazines and events to heavily cross-promote programmes. Events are also used to promote magazines and vise versa.

According to the Telegraph report, this cross-promotion may have been a stumbling block.

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Several large magazine businesses, including Bauer, are believed to still be in the running to run BBC titles. However, after showing initial interest it seems Hearst-owned NatMag is no longer in the running.

Hearst has now turned its attentions to acquiring France’s Lagadere – owner of Elle publisher Hachette UK – which has put all its international magazines up for sale.

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