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BBC, Discovery tipped to link for streamer

BBC natural history hit Blue Planet II

UK pubcaster the BBC and US factual giant Discovery are teaming up to launch an international streaming service for natural history content, according to UK reports.

The Financial Times and Daily Telegraph claim a deal to pool wildlife programming from the BBC, Discovery, Animal Planet and Science Channel into a dedicated streamer will be announced within weeks.

The service will be owned by Discovery but the Beeb will license its library of natural history programming, including David Attenborough-fronted shows such as Blue Planet and Dynasties. It will not be available in the UK, where the BBC operates its own iPlayer on-demand service, or China.

With BBC shows like Blue Planet having also been hits on Netflix, the move will be seen as another example of broadcasters pulling IP back from the streaming giant to populate their own services, following the announcement of dedicated Disney and NBC streaming services last year. Netflix is preparing to air its own blue-chip natural history series fronted by Attenborough, Our Planet, later this year.

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.

Discovery and the BBC previously coproduced natural history content together but ended the relationship in 2014 as Discovery Channel began leaning more towards returnable, character-led series.

The latest development comes as the two firms prepare to divide up free-to-air broadcaster UKTV. Ownership of the multichannel operator was split 50/50 between the BBC’s commercial arm BBC Studios and Scripps Networks Interactive prior to Discovery’s purchase of the latter group last year. The BBC is expected to retain control of channels such as Dave, Gold and Yesterday in exchange for a one-off payment for Discovery’s stake in the business.

Neither broadcaster has commented on the story.

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