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BBC America is an American pay television network that is jointly owned by BBC Studios and AMC Networks.
Unlike the BBC’s domestic channels in the United Kingdom, BBC America does not receive funding from the British licence fee (which is the principal funding for the BBC’s channels within the United Kingdom), as the BBC cannot fund any of its channels that are available outside the United Kingdom. Consequently, BBC America operates as a commercial-supported channel and accepts traditional advertising. It is also funded by television subscription fees.
As of September 2018, BBC America is available to about 80.9 million television households (87.8% of pay television customers) in the United States.
BBC America was launched on March 29, 1998, presenting a mixture of comedy, drama and lifestyle programs from BBC Television and other British television broadcasters including ITV and Channel 4. In the channel’s early days, it focused on repeats of popular lifestyle shows such as Changing Rooms and Ground Force. BBC America’s head of television programming later stated that the channel needed to establish a niche, since non-British viewers found the lifestyle shows appealing. Most of the newer programs appeared as part of BBC America’s evening schedule.
The network removed the British soap opera EastEnders from its schedule in 2003 due to low ratings; however, the program’s removal from BBC America provoked complaints from viewers, which caught media attention.
After CEO Paul Lee was appointed president of ABC Family in 2009, the network appointed Bill Hilary from Comedy Central to serve as its chief executive officer. Hilary appointed Kathryn Mitchell to the new position of general manager. Under Hilary’s tenure, BBC America was restructured; it moved its main offices to New York City and had its programming budget increase substantially. The channel was led by Garth Ancier, who served as the president of BBC Worldwide Americas from February 2007 until 2010, when he was succeeded by former MTV Networks executive Herb Scannell. Meanwhile, Perry Simon serves as general manager.
In 2014, AMC Networks acquired a 49.9% equity stake in BBC America for $200 million, and replaced Discovery Communications as its management partner. As part of the deal, AMC Networks also took on the responsibility of negotiating U.S. broadcast and advertising sales for the BBC World News channel. AMC Networks CEO Josh Sapan stated that the deal gave his company “a powerful collection of networks that are among the most critically acclaimed, with distinct dramas and other potent content that creates a deep connection with viewers”, while BBC Worldwide CEO Tim Davie considered it “an opportunity to grow the creative quality and ambition from an already high base.”
AMC Networks is also a partner in BritBox, an over-the-top subscription service focused on British television that is operated by BBC Studios and ITV plc.