You would have to look hard at the press kit issued by BBC Broadcast to find any mention of their director of playout and media services as the company prepares for sale.
The only clue to the casual reader at the NAB show in Las Vegas of a change in management might have been an omission on the list of key personnel in the media backgrounder, or perhaps the removal of her portrait from the management team page on the company web site, although they neglected to remove a link to her biography.
Margaret Kelly had been brought in as director of playout and media services from Discovery Networks Europe, no doubt with the intent of winning their playout business.
As it turned out, Ascent Media purchased the competing London Playout Centre, which includes Discovery among its clients, and is now one of the potential purchasers of the BBC Broadcast business.
Thomson/Technicolor is another prospective bidder. The French electronics and media services group recently re-organised its business with a future focus on the media and entertainment industries and last year acquired Corinthian Television, another London-based playout provider. Other possible trade buyers have apparently declined to be named.
A number of financial groups have emerged on the long list of organisations expressing their interest in the business, raising expectations of a management buy-out, or perhaps a BIMBO, a buy-in management buy-out, where the buy-in team retains some of the management team to ease the transition. The seven directors shared £1.2 million in salaries last year, with the highest paid earning more than £250,000.
BBC Broadcast has been attempting to position itself as well-placed to exploit the latest developments in digital delivery, including interactive, on-demand and mobile services, rather than a traditional playout provider, which is now widely seen as an increasingly low-margin commodity business.
Last year BBC Broadcast transmitted 186,000 hours of programming, and over 10,000 hours of interactive television.
“We were really impressed with both the number and quality of companies expressing a serious interest in buying BBC Broadcast,” said Peter Phillips, who is leading the sale for the BBC. The deal, which is expected to be completed by the end of the summer, follows the acquisition of BBC Technology by Siemens last year.