PBS, BBC form factual coproduction partnership

U.S. and UK public broadcasters PBS and the BBC have signed a multi-title coproduction deal that will see the two companies jointly creating between eight and 10 ambitious factual specials per year. (Pictured: Sir David Attenborough)
January 19, 2015

U.S. and UK public broadcasters PBS and the BBC have signed a multi-title coproduction deal that will see the two companies jointly creating between eight and 10 ambitious factual specials per year.

The deal, which also involves the BBC’s commercial arm, BBC Worldwide, will result in approximately 20 hours of programming annually, comprising both stand-out singles and flagship multi-part series, to air on PBS stations nationwide and on BBC1 in the UK.

Specials will begin airing this summer, and cover “the full range of factual genres,” including natural history, science, history, religion and the arts.

“PBS and the BBC share similar public service missions and the same commitment to producing entertaining and educational programming of the highest quality,” said Beth Hoppe, PBS’s chief programming exec and general manager for general audience programming. “We look forward to a long and successful partnership bringing the best from both organizations to the table.”

The news comes after Discovery Communications pulled out of its long-running coproduction partnership with the BBC in 2013, which had produced landmark wildlife series such as Frozen Planet, Life and The Blue Planet.

So far, PBS and the BBC have confirmed details for the first three projects to emerge from the partnership.

Waking Giants, presented by Sir David Attenborough (pictured above), promises to tell the story of one of the “dinosaur finds of the century,” focusing on the more than 200 bones from seven giant creatures that have recently been unearthed after 100 million years of lying undiscovered beneath the South American desert. Billed as an “extraordinary, pre-historic detective story,” the program will air as part of PBS’s ‘Nature’ strand.

Elsewhere, Super Nature: Flight Revealed is a three-part series that will use technology to reveal the secrets of flight.

Cameras developed to film the London Olympics and Hollywood stunts will take the viewer up into the air to meet a variety of animals, including giant flying squirrels, flying fish and flying snakes. The series also promises to use super-hi-speed cameras, an underwater “time-slice” camera system; and a state-of-the-art “Flycam.”

Finally, Earth’s Natural Wonders promises viewers “a landmark tour of Earth,” examining some of the most incredible places on the planet – including Everest, the Grand Canyon and Victoria Falls – and the life and death struggles of the animals and humans that inhabit them.

“PBS is a great partner who shares our passion to give audiences new knowledge and insights, and to be inventive in how we tell stories,” said Natalie Humphreys, controller of production at the BBC across all factual genres, in a statement. “We’re both committed to the very highest editorial standards, and that puts this partnership on a very sure footing and makes working together such a pleasure.”

The broad-ranging deal was negotiated by Hoppe and Michael Kelley, senior VP of programming and business affairs, for PBS; and by Chris Cole, BBC Worldwide North America’s senior VP of sales and coproductions for factual.

Hoppe and VP of programming and development Bill Gardner will oversee editorial for PBS, while Humphreys will oversee it for the BBC.

About The Author
Andrew Jeffrey joined Realscreen in 2021 as its news editor. Here, he helps to oversee assignment, reporting and editing for Realscreen's daily newsletter. Prior to his work covering documentary and non-fiction film and TV, he worked as a reporter and associate producer for CBC Edmonton, and as a reporter for The Star Calgary, where he covered daily news on beats such as local and provincial politics, health care and harm reduction, sports and education. His work has appeared in other Canadian news outlets such as TVO, the Edmonton Journal and Avenue Magazine.