The BBC has joined forces with a US-based internet investor in a bid to boost its position in the ecommerce marketplace.
BBC Worldwide will form a new subsidiary for its commercial beeb.com and freebeeb.net businesses, with TH Lee Global Internet Managers (THLi) acting as a minority partner.
THLi will pay £32.5m to acquire a minority stake in, and fund development of, the new subsidiary which will be called beeb Ventures. The deal will value beeb.com, the BBC's shopping site, and freebeeb.net, its free internet service provider, at £240m.
BBC Worldwide said the deal is part of its continuing strategy to develop more ecommerce partnerships and expand into new platforms such as interactive TV, mobile phones and high-speed internet.
Rupert Gavin, chief executive at BBC Worldwide, said: "The deal comes at a time of exceptional market opportunity due to a forecast of explosive growth in UK ecommerce. THLi's investment and expertise, with the strength of the BBC brand, gives beeb.com and freebeeb.net a major strategic advantage in a rapidly growing marketplace."
The BBC also signed a content deal with UK cable company Telewest yesterday, enabling customers to access the BBC's digital services over cable networks. The deal, which will last until 2006, will enable access to BBC1, BBC2, BBC Choice, BBC News 24 and BBC Knowledge, as well as to news, sport and weather from BBC Online.
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