MIPCOM ’13: BBCWW steps in as BBC, Discovery confirm end of deal

BBC Worldwide is to become the BBC's principal coproduction partner for blue-chip wildlife, as the UK pubcaster today confirmed that its long-standing partnership with Discovery is coming to an end. (Pictured: The Blue Planet)
October 9, 2013

Discovery and the BBC have confirmed that their long-standing coproduction partnership, which has produced factual series such as Life, The Blue Planet (pictured) and Frozen Planet, is coming to an end.

The decision has been made by mutual agreement, the two parties said in a joint statement. The news comes after a UK report in June suggested that Discovery was pulling the plug on the partnership as it felt it no longer got enough value from the deal.

In a statement released in tandem with the joint announcement, the BBC said that its commercial arm – BBC Worldwide (BBCWW) will make a major investment in BBC factual content “covering the breadth of the BBC’s output across natural history, science and history, becoming the principal coproduction partner with the BBC Natural History Unit,” effective today (October 9).

Although the “formal relationship” with Discovery is coming to an end, the two parties say they will continue to work together on a number of forthcoming projects, including Hidden Kingdom, Survival and How to Build a Planet.

Bal Samra, the BBC’s commercial director, said: “The BBC and Discovery have enjoyed a long-standing and successful relationship and, although this phase of our partnership is now coming to an end, we look forward to working together on a number of projects in the future.

“Science and natural history programs have always been a core part of the BBC’s DNA and we have ambitious plans for the future, with an exciting range of new content in the pipeline. International demand for our content has never been higher and we continue to enjoy a collaborative and fruitful relationship with a wide range of coproducers.”

Andrew Jackson, Discovery’s exec VP of production and development for landmark series and specials, added: “As Discovery’s global audiences continue to flourish, they demand the very best science and natural history programming.

“This is taking us in exciting, new directions, creating these essential shows for numerous cutting-edge platforms. We look forward to working with the many talented production companies around the world, including the BBC, with whom we have enjoyed a long and successful relationship.”

For its part, the BBC is keen to downplay the notion of any potential loss in quality that may emerge from the termination of its partnership with the U.S. giant.

BBC director of Television Danny Cohen told realscreen in June that “there will certainly be no reduction in this vital strand of programming either in the UK or internationally,” and the UK pubcaster added today that its deal with BBCWW will result in “more hours of factual content than ever before, from new landmark titles to popular science and nature series, and special television events.”

The first wave of titles announced with BBCWW on board as copro partners include The Hunt, Wild Alaska, and 24 Hours on Earth.

In a statement issued today, Cohen said: “We have a shared vision with Worldwide to create world class factual content that will delight audiences at home – and also appeal to those across the globe.

“Commercial investment through BBC Worldwide and our network of production partners around the world will ensure that we continue to make ambitious genre-defining series that connect audiences from London to Tokyo with science, history and the wonders of the natural world.”

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