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BBC, Discovery pair for streamer

Discovery will be the SVoD home for BBC natural history content such as Blue Planet

The commercial arm of the BBC and US factual giant Discovery are linking up on a global SVoD service and have finalised the division of multichannel broadcaster UKTV.

The 10-year content partnership with the BBC’s commercial arm BBC Studios (BBCS), first mooted in February, will make Discovery the exclusive global home of BBC natural history programmes in SVoD, including Planet Earth, Blue Planet and Life and future BBC-commissioned series following their linear transmission.

Discovery has also acquired SVoD rights to hundreds of hours of BBC programming across factual genres. This content will form one of the pillars of a new global streaming service, which will also include Discovery’s programming library and original content for the service.

The service will launch in 2020.

In the UK, UKTV will be split in two. Ownership of the multichannel operator was shared 50/50 between BBCS and Scripps Networks Interactive prior to Discovery’s purchase of the latter group last year.

Discovery will take sole ownership of lifestyle channels Good Food, Home and Really while BBC Studios will own Alibi, Dave, Drama, Eden, Gold, Yesterday and W outright, along with digital player UKTV Play and the UKTV brand. BBCS will make payments totalling £173m (US$227m) to Discovery.

The entertainment channels will continue to operate under the UKTV brand out of UKTV’s offices and BBCS will look to grow investment in UK programming, including original content, for the channels it will own.

Following the deal’s completion, James Gibbons, executive VP and general manager for UK/IRL/ANZ and commercial development for Discovery EMEA, will manage the lifestyle channels as part of Discovery’s UK portfolio.

Marcus Arthur, president of UK, Ireland and ANZ at BBC Studios Distribution, will also assume the role of CEO of UKTV. Arthur, who joined BBCS’s predecessor BBC Worldwide in 1991, has previously held the roles of MD of BBC Magazines and MD of global brands and new ventures and sits on the UKTV board.

BBCS and Discovery have also agreed to a short-term programme licensing agreement for the supply of BBCS lifestyle content to Discovery’s UKTV channels in the UK.

In addition, Discovery and BBCS are restarting a coproduction strategy to develop new landmark factual content. The two broadcasters previously paired on series including Planet Earth, Walking with Dinosaurs, Life and Blue Planet.

Discovery has long been tipped as the next broadcaster to launch its own streaming service, having so far focused its digital efforts on sport through its Eurosport brand and viral content through its investment in digital-first firm Group Nine Media. Last year it struck a US$2bn deal for the on-demand rights to PGA Tour golf.

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