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‘EastEnders’ Set Studio Sold and Leased Back by BBC to Meet Savings Target

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The BBC has sold its Elstree Centre property, which includes the iconic Albert Square set for long-running soap “EastEnders,” to global investment giant AXA IM Alts.

As part of the transaction, AXA IM Alts will lease part of the studio campus back to the BBC for 25 years.

“The sale of the Elstree Centre site is part of an ongoing review of the BBC’s property portfolio in order to provide the best value for licence fee payers,” BBC CFO Alan Dickson said. “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.”

A transaction value was not disclosed but the BBC aims to secure £70 million ($89 million), Variety understands. The BBC completed the rebuild of the Albert Square set two years ago four year late and at £87 million, £27 million over budget.

The deal has taken place at a time when the BBC is looking to find significant annual savings, currently estimated at £500 million. In August 2023, the historic Maida Vale Studios in London was sold by the BBC to a four-way partnership between Working Title chairs Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner and two-time Oscar winner Hans Zimmer and his business partner Steven Kofsky.

In December 2023, the U.K. government raised the BBC’s annual license fee – where the bulk of the corporation’s income comes from – by £10.50 to £169.50, lower than what the corporation expected, causing a funding gap of £90 million.

The Elstree acquisition is AXA IM Alts’ first investment into the U.K.’s TV and film studio market and was undertaken on behalf of clients. It follows the investment company’s acquisition of one of France’s largest studio complexes, the Bry-sur-Marne studios, in 2023.

John O’Driscoll, global co-head of real estate at AXA IM Alts, said: “With the signing of BBC Elstree Centre we will be acquiring one of the oldest working TV and film studios in the U.K., with a history dating back almost 110 years. 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. The whole area has a long and illustrious history of producing some of the world’s most celebrated films and television series and, under our stewardship, we aim to continue that legacy.

“The TV and film studios sector remains one of our conviction asset classes, being underpinned by increasing demand from an ever-broader array of production houses, content creators and broadcasters. This is coupled with very 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.”