BBC Worldwide (BBCWW) is pressing ahead with plans to expand its Lonely Planet brand with new commissions for its branded blocks and is in discussions about a digital channel.
Lonely Planet-branded programming blocks launched on BBC Knowledge channels around the world last year and Sue Norton, head of Lonely Planet Television, told C21 about her plans to grow the brand on TV and online.
New programming is currently being produced, including a series based on the Lonely Planet 1000 Ultimate Experiences book, which will also air on Travel Channel in the US next year. Norton also said she’s keen to work more with Ben Fogle, who fronted a five-episode Lonely Planet series called Year of Adventures.
Norton said: “We’re producing content and trying to feed the block and grow the block – that’s something we’re cultivating.”
A similar strategy of launching themed blocks and growing them into standalone channels previously worked for BBC Earth but BBCWW said there are no firm plans for a Lonely Planet linear TV channel.
However, Norton said she is in discussions with potential partners about a Lonely Planet themed channel to launch in the digital space.
“We definitely have our sights set on growing the brand in all media and one of the areas in which I see a great opportunity is in the digital channel space. With the growth of digital channels, entertainment systems and smart TVs, we’re seeing a great burst of energy in that digital channel space, especially in the US.
“This is an ideal place for the Lonely Planet brand and we’re definitely in serious discussions and development about trying to launch a digital channel.”
Norton added that she hopes a launch in this space could take place in the new year and roll out globally, possibly after soft launches in the US or UK. The digital channel would take shortform and longform content from BBCWW, the Lonely Planet catalogue and BBC archives.
She said: “We’re one of the leading global travel brands, inching our way up to number one in the US and number one in many other countries, so I personally feel that a global digital channel is a great opportunity for us.
“If all goes well, we would love to see something happen in the new year. It really depends on partner discussions. If we end up with a large partner then it could be exclusive to one particular platform, but our ultimate goal and objective would be as much global distribution as we can get across as many platforms.”
The value of Lonely Planet has dropped from the £130m (US$204m) BBCWW paid for the Australia-based business to £85m, according to BBCWW’s annual report released earlier this week.
BBCWW took out a non-cash impairment charge of £16.1m against the value of Lonely Planet, blaming the high value of the Australian dollar. Parts of the business, including online, have been streamlined and relocated to London.