UKTN sells £70m EastEnders studios to support weak finances

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The UKTN has hoisted a for sale sign above the studio behind EastEnders as the broadcaster battles sliding license fee revenue.

The company plans to acquire UKTN Studios Elstree and lease the space back from a new owner so that the long-running British soap can be filmed at the location.

As well as hosting EastEnders, the studio has been used for regular UKTN events such as Children in Need broadcasting and UK election coverage. Elstree is reportedly worth around £70 million.

Commercial real estate agents Lambert Smith Hampton have been hired to find potential candidates, according to an advertisement seen by The Telegraph, which described it as a “unique opportunity to acquire an iconic piece of manufacturing history and write the next chapter”.

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The broadcaster is open to exploring “a number of possible takedown structures,” the list said.

The sale is part of the effort by Tim Davie, the director-general of the UKTN, to increase the organisation’s commercial returns amid the continued erosion of its annual license fee revenue of £3.2 billion.

The efforts helped the broadcaster’s commercial arm – UKTN Studios – make a record profit of £226 million last year. However, he has faced internal resistance to some of his plans.

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An attempt to capitalize on the podcast boom by commercializing Radio 4 programs to foreign listeners has met backlash from some UKTN staff, who believe it could jeopardize the organisation’s public service values.

The decision to acquire Elstree comes as the TV and film production industry struggles with a severe shortage of studio space, driven by an insatiable demand for content from US streaming companies.

Last year, Netflix announced a long-term lease with Longcross Studios, the Surrey production facility behind James Bond’s Skyfall and Star Wars.

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Netflix already has exclusive access to most of the Shepperton studios in west London, while Disney rents most of the Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire.

It is clear that UKTN executives see studio sales as an opportunity to lower operating costs and reduce their carbon footprint.

A UKTN spokesperson said: “As part of our ongoing review of the UKTN’s property portfolio, we are examining the sale of Elstree and the leasing back of some for continued production of EastEnders.

“There are long-term commitments for the continued use of Elstree, for the parts that support EastEnders.”

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