The wisdom of David Brent lets BBC cash in on DVD retailing

The BBC plans to spin off its DVD and video retailing business, buoyed by record sales of its hit comedy The Office.

The public broadcaster, which is reviewing the status of all its commercial activities, wants to form a 50-50 joint venture with another company. The deal would suit a major retailer such as HMV.

The Office, featuring everyone's worst boss, David Brent, played by Ricky Gervais, sold more than a million videos last year, making it the UK's bestselling video/DVD television title.

The DVD and video retailing business is part of the BBC's commercial arm, BBC Worldwide, which recorded sales of £640m last year.

But talks with publisher Random House to spin off BBC Books, Britain's largest non-fiction publisher, have collapsed. Random House, part of the Bertelsmann group, is understood to have walked away because BBC Books, publisher of the Delia Smith cookery series, no longer has exclusive rights on many programmes shown on the BBC as more of them are now being made by independent television companies. It is not known if the BBC has found a replacement partner.

The BBC is also planning to spin off its children's book publishing business. It had been in talks with Woolworths' audio-visual publisher, VCI. But Woolworths is understood to have pulled out because of uncertainty over what merchandising rights the business would retain. A spokeswoman for Woolworths declined to comment.

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