PBS, BBC team up for live natural history special

The three-part Big Blue Live (pictured) is the first project to be created and produced through PBS and BBC's recently signed coproduction partnership.
May 7, 2015

PBS and BBC will jointly produce a live natural history special about marine life off the U.S. West Coast later this summer.

The three x 60-minute Big Blue Live (pictured) is the first project to be produced through the two pubcasters’ recently signed coproduction deal. It will focus on humpback whales, blue whales, sea lions, dolphins, great white sharks and other sea creatures as they convene in a once-a-year confluence off the coast of Monterey Bay, California.

PBS will air the specials over three nights, from August 31 to September 2, at 8 p.m. EST, with another live feed on the west coast beginning at 8 p.m. PST. The BBC will air its live broadcast in the UK a week earlier.

In addition to the TV broadcast, Big Blue Live will stream online and via social media. “In both feeds, as well as streaming online and in social media, viewers can watch one of nature’s great ‘reality’ shows delivered through state-of-the-art filming technologies and live reports from air, sea, and below the waves,” the network said in a statement.

The specials will be hosted by four on-air correspondents—Dr. M Sanjayan, Liz Bonnin, Dr. Joy Reidenberg and Steve Backshall—stationed at the Monterrey Bay Aquarium and on board National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association research vessels. British news anchor Matt Baker will also appear in the UK version.

James Honeyborne is exec producing and Adam White is series producing for the BBC’s Natural History Unit. BBC Worldwide is handling distribution.

In January, PBS and the BBC signed a multi-title coproduction deal to jointly create and produce between eight and 10 factual specials per year. The deal also involves the BBC Worldwide, BBC’s commercial arm, and will result in approximately 20 hours of programming annually.

Big Blue Live will cap off PBS’s summer season, the details of which were also unveiled this week.

Non-fiction highlights from the schedule include The Bomb, a history of nuclear weapons premiering on July 28; Uranium: Twisting the Dragon’s Tail, featuring YouTube personality Dr. Derek Muller, also airing on July 28; and Frederick Wiseman’s documentary National Gallery, airing on August 21.

PBS’s ‘Think Wednesday’ science programming block will include the five-part First Peoples on June 24; the three-part Life on the Reef, about the Great Barrier Reef, on July 22; and veterinary series Operation Wild on July 1.

Docs airing in the summer include Limited Partnership on ‘Independent Lens,’ which looks at the battle for legal immigration status for same-sex spouses in the U.S. and Sundance winner The Overnighters, which will air on doc strand ‘POV.’

The network will also rebroadcast Ken Burns‘ 1990 documentary The Civil War in September to mark the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination.

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Jillian Morgan is the Associate Editor at Realscreen with a background in journalism and digital marketing. She joined the publication in 2019 after serving as the assistant editor to trade publications HPAC and On-Site. With a bachelor of journalism from the University of King's College in Halifax, she also works as a freelance writer and fact-checker.