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BBC, Discovery partnership ends

MIPCOM: Discovery and the BBC have confirmed they are ending their long-standing coproduction partnership, but the UK pubcaster has moved quickly to fill the gap in its factual programming budget.

The two broadcasters have previously collaborated on blue-chip natural history series including Frozen Planet, Blue Planet and Wonders of the Solar System.

But the partnership is now dissolving, with the corporation’s commercial arm, BBC Worldwide (BBCWW), stepping in as the new major coproduction partner for the BBC Natural History Unit.

The end of the Discovery relationship has been rumoured for some time, with the deal extension signed between the two in 2010 expiring this year and Discovery increasingly looking at more character-led, returnable series.

Speaking at the Edinburgh International Television Festival in August, Julian Bellamy, creative director and head of production and development at Discovery Networks International (DNI), said talks between the two parties were ongoing. But both have now confirmed the end of the deal by mutual consent.

The two companies will continue to work together on forthcoming projects including Hidden Kingdom, Survival and How to Build a Planet.

The BBC moved quickly today to allay fears that the end of the deal will put a dent in its factual programming budget, with new investment promised by the corporation and BBCWW across natural history, science and history programming.

BBCWW will become the principal coproduction partner of the BBC Natural History Unit from today, a move the corporation said will see it produce more factual content than ever.

The first wave of new 11 titles from the partnership includes landmark series One Planet, The Hunt, Wild Alaska and 24 Hours on Earth, which will be coproduced with BBC America. The other seven shows include Oceans, Kangaroo Dundee and Sleepover at the Zoo. All 11 titles will be distributed globally by BBCWW.

Tim Davie, CEO of BBCWW, said: “Demand for our factual content has never been higher and this investment opens up opportunities to work with new partners worldwide to produce an exciting and varied slate of content that will appeal to everyone, allowing us to bring BBC factual content to an even wider audience.”


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