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Discovery, BBC confirm SVOD content partnership, UKTV channel split

After weeks of speculation, the BBC and Discovery Inc. have confirmed a 10-year content partnership that will see the British pubcaster’s iconic array of natural history and specialist factual programming ...
April 1, 2019

After weeks of speculation, the BBC and Discovery Inc. have confirmed a 10-year content partnership that will see the British pubcaster’s iconic array of natural history and specialist factual programming featured in a global SVOD service to be launched by Discovery in 2020.

The content partnership, effective in all territories outside the UK, Ireland and Greater China, will make Discovery the exclusive global home of BBC landmark natural history programs in SVOD, including the Planet Earth, Blue Planet and Life titles, the recent Dynasties and others, as well as future BBC-commissioned landmark series from BBC Studios, following their linear transmission. Discovery is also acquiring SVOD rights to hundreds of hours of BBC programming across factual genres.

Discovery and BBC Studios have also signed a bespoke development deal that reignites their previous content production partnership, to create new event factual content for Discovery for both linear and digital distribution. The two companies will co-fund a dedicated development team within BBC Studios.

The two parties have also arrived at a deal concerning the UKTV portfolio of channels. Under the terms of the UKTV deal, which is expected to complete in late Spring 2019, Discovery takes full control of lifestyle channels Good Food, Home and Really, with James Gibbons, EVP, GM, UK/IRL/ANZ & Commercial Development, Discovery EMEA, set to manage the lifestyle channels as part of Discovery’s UK portfolio.

Meanwhile, BBC Studios is acquiring the remaining seven channels – Alibi, Dave, Drama, Eden, Gold, Yesterday and W – along with digital player UKTV Play, and the UKTV brand. Following completion, Marcus Arthur, president, UK, Ireland & ANZ, BBC Studios Distribution, will also assume the role of CEO, UKTV.

As part of the UKTV agreement, BBC Studios will make payments totalling £173 million to Discovery. This includes a balancing payment in relation to the channels acquisition and the assumption of £70m of debt, currently financed by Discovery. Discovery will also receive at least an additional £10 million from UKTV, as the parties will share the existing cash on the company’s balance sheet, reflecting outstanding dividend, and other ancillary value transfers to Discovery through the transaction.

BBC Studios and Discovery have also agreed to a short-term Program Licensing Agreement for the supply of BBC Studios lifestyle content to Discovery’s UKTV channels in the UK.

“As the two market leaders in landmark natural history and iconic factual programming, Tony and I look forward to working together again – our teams represent over 100 years of combined experience. Discovery will be taking that expertise and creating the definitive global streaming product for curious and passionate viewers of all generations who want the most trusted, family friendly storytelling in the world,” said David Zaslav (pictured), president and CEO of Discovery Inc., in a statement.

“The BBC makes outstanding natural history and science program,” added BBC Director General Tony Hall. “They are ground-breaking and demonstrate the quality and depth of our know-how. It is vital that we keep investing and growing them for the future. This is our largest ever content sales deal. It will mean BBC Studios and Discovery will work together to take our content right across the globe through a new world-beating streaming service. Global subscribers are in for a real treat: the best content on a great new platform.

“This is brilliant news for audiences here as it will enable the BBC to invest even more in factual programming for them. That’s also why BBC Studios taking control of the UKTV channels that best fit our programs is good news. It means a secure future with long-term commercial returns. The UKTV team has done a fantastic job and I am delighted that will continue.”

A press conference to further discuss details of the deal is slated for 7:30 am EST.

About The Author
Senior staff writer Frederick Blichert comes to realscreen with a background as a journalist and freelance film critic. He has previously written for VICE, Paste Magazine, Senses of Cinema, Xtra, Canadian Cinematographer and elsewhere. He holds a Master of Arts in film studies from Carleton University and a Master of Journalism from the University of British Columbia.

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