This article examines the recent commercialisation of the programme-making activities at the BBC in the United Kingdom as a major instance of a wider tendency that sees a market logic becoming increasingly embedded in public service media (PSM) organisations. Drawing on ideational approaches to policy analysis, this article seeks to explain how and why the BBC came to conceive of BBC Studios, a new commercial subsidiary bringing together the majority of BBC’s in-house production units and free to compete in the wider market for programme commissions, as serving its long-term interests. It considers how BBC strategists engaged with dominant ideas in UK broadcasting policy on the economic value of the creative industries and the benefits of competition for creativity in television programme-making. It shows how changes to the institutional context over the past three decades, predicated on these very ideas, have constrained BBC’s room for manoeuvre. The main arguments put forward – the BBC’s growing reliance on economic arguments to justify its value and the path-dependent effects at work pushing the BBC towards advocating an institutional solution entailing the further hollowing out of its publicly funded structures – are relevant to wider debates on the future role and organisational forms of PSM.