EastEnders’ Albert Square set sold by BBC for huge price amid money struggles

The BBC has sold EastEnders' famous Albert Square set in Watford, Hertfordshire for a whopping £70m to French company Axa - as the broadcaster struggles to raise funds

The BBC has flogged EastEnders’ iconic Albert Square to France.

The telly landmark and its famous Queen Vic pub have been British institutions for nearly 40 years since the soap was first broadcast. But now they could become La Reine Vic and Place Albert after Beeb bosses agreed to sell its Elstree studios – where EastEnders is filmed – to French insurance company Axa for up to £70millon.

The insurer’s investment arm Axa Investment Managers will buy the 16-acre complex near Watford. The BBC will take a 25-year leaseback of part of the facilities and continue to film there after the deal completes early next year (2025).

The broadcaster put the site up for sale in 2022 as it faced a cash crunch after the Government froze the licence fee for two years when inflation rose sharply and set a strict limit for increases from April this year. The funding squeeze has already forced the Beeb to cut spending on programmes such as Newsnight as part of efforts to save £500m.

The iconic Albert Square set is being sold for around £70m (Image: BBC / Jack Barnes)
It hopes to raise cash by making and selling programmes through its BBC Studios arm. Beeb finance director Alan Dickson (corr) said the sale of the Elstree Centre was part of an ongoing review of the BBC’s property portfolio in order to provide the best value for licence fee payers.

Elstree has been a centre of UK TV and film production for more than a century. The BBC bought its studio there in 1984 – the year before EastEnders was first broadcast. The site is also used for large studio productions such as the BBC Children in Need charity telethon.

The soap set is being flogged to French company Axa (Image: BBC)

The deal is the latest sign of film and TV investor interest in UK which has become a key part of the Hollywood movie industry thanks to its skilled workforce, advanced technology and tax breaks. FulwellCain – which is part owned by Gavin & Stacey actor James Corden – is working with Sunderland City Council to try to win approval for a £450m film studio complex on the banks of the river Wear the north-east.

Sky has just opened new studios in Elstree which will be the location for the next Paddington movie. Warner Bros Discovery plans to increase capacity at its studios north of London.

The BBC is struggling to raise funds (Image: BBC / Jack Barnes)

While another studio complex is being planned at Marlow, Bucks. The BBC Elstree deal is the second recent major studio acquisition by Axa which argues film and TV production space near big cities is in short supply and represents an attractive niche for real estate investors. y

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