Penguin and BBC Worldwide have announced a new publishing venture that will bring some of the best-known TV characters in the world, including the Teletubbies and the Tweenies, into the Penguin Group.

The new imprint, BBC Children's Books, will publish between 60 and 80 titles annually and will be granted the first option to license the book publishing rights in all new BBC children's properties to which the BBC has the relevant rights. It will be added to the other children's lists within Penguin under the leadership of Sally Floyer, who will also retain her current position as managing director of Penguin's Ladybird division. Penguin will own 75% of the company, and BBC Worldwide will have a 25% stake. The board will include members of both Penguin and BBC Worldwide under the chairmanship of Penguin's Anthony Forbes-Watson.

BBC Worldwide's existing business will be transferred to the new company, as will its editorial, design and production teams. Penguin will provide operation and management support to the company as well as global sales and distribution. The company will begin operating immediately.

The news brings to an end speculation about the future of BBC Worldwide. At the Bologna Book Fair last month, the company's enormous stand was all but deserted after the recent news of publishing director Sue Tarsky's departure.

The formation of the new company adds strength to both sides, since the Penguin Group already has a substantial licensing list to which the BBC Worldwide titles will add strength, while BBC Worldwide will benefit from Penguin's distribution and infrastructure. "The BBC came to us hoping for a joint venture," said Floyer. "As a small publisher they have had to depend on a number of third parties rather than having any consistency." In contrast, the Penguin Group already has strong worldwide partners, particularly in the Australasian market and in the U.S. "BBC Worldwide doesn't have a consistent partner in the U.S., which means that the output is fragmented," Floyer said. "Having the BBC Worldwide list will enable us to develop product coherently rather than the titles being spread around."

Robert Gavin, BBC Worldwide chief executive, endorsed the increased opportunities that would be available to the new company, noting, "We look forward to building a strong business, both in the U.K. and around the world."