Discovery, BBC Studios Finalize UKTV Split, Ink Deal for Streaming Service


Discovery and BBC Studios have agreed to split the UKTV business and are teaming up for a global SVOD platform featuring the pubcaster’s natural-history content.

A new ten-year partnership, effective worldwide excluding the U.K., Ireland and Greater China, makes Discovery the exclusive SVOD home of BBC landmark natural-history programs, including the Planet Earth, Blue Planet and Life collections plus future BBC-commissioned landmark series from BBC Studios. Discovery has also licensed the SVOD rights to hundreds of hours of BBC programming across factual genres. The content will be featured on a new service launching by 2020.

The two companies have also inked a development deal for new factual content for Discovery.

On the UKTV front, Discovery is taking full ownership of the venture’s lifestyle channels, Good Food, Home and Really. These will join the Discovery UK portfolio under the management of James Gibbons, executive VP and general manager for the U.K., Ireland, Australia and New Zealand and commercial development at Discovery EMEA.

BBC Studios will own the entertainment channels Alibi, Dave, Drama, Eden, Gold, Yesterday and W, UKTV Play and the UKTV brand. These will continue to operate under the UKTV brand out of UKTV’s offices. Marcus Arthur, president for the U.K., Ireland, Australia and New Zealand at BBC Studios Distribution, will also assume the role of CEO of UKTV. BBC Studios will make payments totaling £173 million to Discovery. Discovery will also receive at least an additional £10 million from UKTV.

David Zaslav, president and CEO of Discovery, said, “As the two market leaders in landmark natural history and iconic factual programming, Tony [Hall, BBC Director-General] 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. 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. 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.”

Hall noted, “The BBC makes outstanding natural history and science programs. They are groundbreaking 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.”