Discovery, Inc. and BBC Studios have struck a “multi-million pound global content partnership,” the companies said on Monday, which will bring BBC’s “Planet Earth,” “Blue Planet,” “Life,” “Dynasties” and other natural-history titles to Discovery’s SVOD platforms.
The 10-year deal, which should close in late spring, relies on Discovery launching a new global streaming service for natural history programming by 2020 that will operate outside the U.K., Ireland and China.
In addition to the hundreds of hours of already existing content, Discovery and BBC Studios will develop new landmark factual content together. The two companies will co-fund a dedicated development team within BBC Studios.
Discovery will now also take full ownership of UKTV’s “lifestyle” channels, like Good Food, Home, and Really, while BBC Studios gets the “entertainment” ones. Following completion, James Gibbons will manage the lifestyle channels as part of Discovery’s U.K. portfolio.
BBC Studios takes the remaining seven channels — Alibi, Dave, Drama, Eden, Gold, Yesterday and W — along with digital network UKTV Play, and the UKTV brand. Marcus Arthur, the BBC Studios distribution president for U.K., Ireland and Australia/New Zealand, will also assume the role of CEO, UKTV.
In addition to some other financial considerations, BBC Studios paid Discovery the equivalent of about $227 million as part of the UKTV agreement. Discovery, through its big Scripps deal that closed last year, owned 50 percent of UKTV. BBC Studios owned the other 50 percent.
“As the two market leaders in landmark natural history and iconic factual programming, Tony (Hall, director-general of the BBC) and I look forward to working together again — our teams represent over 100 years of combined experience,” Discovery President and CEO David Zaslav said on Monday. “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.”
“From the planets to the poles, and documenting every species in between, the world has always been part of Discovery’s DNA. It is who we are,” he continued. “Telling these stories is our mission and it is more important now than ever before. The new platform will be the first global direct-to-consumer service with the category’s most iconic IP including the ‘Planet Earth’ series, future sequels and spin-offs to all existing landmark series, and new exclusive natural history and science programming coming in the future. There is tremendous value in the marketplace for these programming categories which have broad appeal and strong multi-generational engagement, and we hope to fill the void in the global marketplace for a dedicated high quality product.”
“The BBC makes outstanding natural history and science programmes,” Hall said. “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,” Hall added. “That’s also why BBC Studios taking control of the UKTV channels that best fit our programmes 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.”
It’s worth pointing out here that cable channel BBC America will still get the BBC’s natural history content first on television. The Discovery SVOD service gets the second window, which usually opens about a year later.