The BBC has hoisted a for sale sign over the studio behind EastEnders, as the broadcaster battles sliding income from the licence fee.
The corporation is planning to offload BBC Studios Elstree and lease back the space from a new owner, allowing the long-running British soap to continue to be filmed at the site.
As well as hosting EastEnders, the studio has been used for set-piece BBC events, such as Children in Need broadcasts and its coverage of the UK elections. Elstree is reportedly worth around £70m.
Commercial property agents Lambert Smith Hampton have been hired to find potential suitors, according to an advert seen by The Telegraph, which described it as a “unique opportunity to acquire an iconic piece of production history and write the next chapter”.
The broadcaster is open to exploring “a number of potential disposal structures”, the listing says.
The sale is part of efforts by Tim Davie, the director-general of the BBC, to increase the commercial returns of the organisation amid the ongoing erosion of its £3.2bn annual licence fee income.
The efforts helped the broadcaster’s commercial arm – BBC Studios – make a record £226m profit last year. However, he has faced internal resistance to some of his plans.
A move to capitalise on the podcast boom by commercialising Radio 4 programmes for overseas listeners has been met with a backlash from some BBC staff, who believe it could jeopardise the organisation’s public service values.
The decision to offload Elstree comes as the TV and film production sector grapples 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 production facility in Surrey behind James Bond’s Skyfall and Star Wars.
Netflix already has exclusive access to most of Shepperton studios in west London, while Disney is renting most of Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire.
It is understood the BBC executives are viewing the studio sale as an opportunity to slash its operating costs and cut its carbon footprint.
A BBC spokesman said: “As part of our ongoing review of the BBC’s property portfolio we are exploring the sale of Elstree and leasing back part for the continued production of EastEnders.
“There are long term commitments for the continued use of Elstree, for the parts which support EastEnders.”