BBCÂ Worldwide have announced the sale of 85% of the shareholding in BBC Audiobooks (includingÂ BBC Audiobooks America)Â to AudioGo Limited, a group formed by of seven partners including Michael Kuhn, Marc Meyer and Malcolm Ritchie who worked together at Polygram, for Â£10 million.
Michael Kuhn told the MediaGuardian that he wished to moveÂ beyondÂ theÂ BBCÂ content andÂ intends to launch new titles including comedy, celebrity stories and comic books, as well as trying to get sports stars to launch audio versions of their traditional print memoirs.
In an attempt to win over the web savvy youngsters Kuhn is hoping to move BBC Audiobooks which has released such Doctor Who titles as Dead Air, Pest Control and The Runaway Train into the digital age:
“As [the audiobook market] becomes more digital the audience is becoming different from [the traditional] middle-aged demographic.”
“We are now in a digital era, a whole new era. Look at some of the bestsellers, [they use] ghost writers for memoirs, we can have someone sit down and tell a story over a week.”
The sale is part of a move by BBC Worldwide to strip the its commercial arm of several disposable assets consider non-core after pressure from the commercial sector following its purchase of the globetrotting brand, Lonely Planet. Worldwide has already sold an 85% share of BBC Books to Random House and is rumoured to be selling an equal stake in BBC Magazines which publishes Doctor Who Adventures.
AudioGo will continue to trade the 20% of content from the BBC as BBC Audiobooks.
Specific profit figures relating to Audiobooks are unavailable but BBC Audiobooks said that it was ‘profitable’ in the 12 months to the end of March.
Although revenue from the audio and music division, which includes BBC Audiobooks had slipped from Â£27.2m to Â£25.9m.
BBC Worldwide said that the audio and music business operated in “challenging markets” last year, adding that although digital downloads are growing and now account for almost 30% of units sold, the business is “strategically non-core and we believe a faster transition from physical to digital distribution can be achieved”.