BBC to sell EastEnders set as part of deal to make savings

Entertainment

The BBC is selling its Elstree Centre – including the famous EastEnders set – as it continues to find ways to make millions in savings.

The BBC has exchanged contracts with Axa Investment Managers for the 16-acre site in Hertfordshire, which includes seven stages as well as workshop, office and post-production facilities.

However, the corporation has agreed to lease part of the studio campus for 25 years – meaning EastEnders will still be filmed on site.

BBC Elstree Centre was the first of several similar complexes in the area, which are collectively known as Elstree Studios.

The value of the sale has not been revealed, but the broadcaster is currently looking to find £500m in annual savings. It was reportedly looking for £70m, according to a BBC news report.

Alan Dickson, the BBC’s chief financial officer, said the sale was part of an ongoing review of the BBC’s property portfolio in order to provide the best value for licence fee payers.

“As part of the sale, the EastEnders site has been secured on a long-term lease and Elstree will continue to be the home of Albert Square,” he said.

“Moreover, AXA’s investment ensures the Elstree site remains a fantastic asset for the UK’s creative economy.”

The sale comes two years after the BBC finished rebuilding the EastEnders set at a cost of £87m, which was £27m over budget.

Last summer, Oscar-winning composer Hans Zimmer bought the corporation’s famous Maida Vale Studios in London in a partnership with three film producers.

And in November it was announced that Newsnight was being cut by 30 minutes and losing more than half its staff.

Image:
Maida Vale Studios was bought by Hans Zimmer in 2023

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BBC Elstree Centre was originally created as a film studio for Neptune Films in 1914 and converted for use as a television studio in 1960.

It was sold to the BBC in 1984 as the production base and set to launch EastEnders and has previously been used for shows including Children In Need, Casualty, and Top Of The Pops.

The wider Elstree Studios is one of the world’s most famous film and television production campuses in the world, where blockbusters such as Star Wars have been filmed, and is not included in the sale.

John O’Driscoll, global co-head of real estate at AXA IM Alts, said the company aimed to continue the legacy of producing “celebrated films and television series”.

“With the signing of BBC Elstree Centre we will be acquiring one of the oldest working TV and film studios in the UK, with a history dating back almost 110 years,” he said.

“The structure of the transaction allows the BBC to continue its production on the site for at least another 25 years, while providing us with the opportunity to invest in the site to create new world-class studios.”

Mr O’Driscoll said the move was “underpinned by increasing demand from an ever-broader array of production houses, content creators and broadcasters”, coupled with a limited supply of high-quality modern film and production space, “particularly in and around London where new construction is hindered by a lack of available land in the right locations”.

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