• Discovery to launch factual SVOD service
  • ”Largest ever content sales deal,” says BBC
  • UKTV channels to be split between BBC and Discovery

BBC Dyanasties discovery SVOD

Dynasties: Follows five of the world’s most celebrated yet endangered animal families  

Source: BBC

Discovery and BBC Studios have agreed the future terms of UKTV and announced Discovery will launch a global SVOD service powered by BBC’s natural history catalogue. 

The new 10-year content partnership will align the two media giants with Discovery taking full ownership of UKTV’s lifestyle channels and BBC Studios taking UKTV’s entertainment channels in a multi-million-pound global content and sales endeavour.

Discovery also announced it will launch a new global streaming video-on-demand (SVOD) service making it the exclusive hub of BBC’s landmark natural history programmes including Planet Earth, Blue Planet and Life as well as its latest series Dynasties with all future BBC commissioned series following linear transmission from its commercial arm, BBC Studios.

BBC director general Tony Hall said: “This is our largest ever content sales deal.

Tony Hall

Tony Hall: “Subscribers are in for a real treat”

“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.”

The service will be available in all territories outside the UK, Ireland and Greater China, offering hundreds of hours of BBC factual genre programmes and form one the pillars to the new streaming service.

It will also include some of Discovery’s flagship library programmes, original content created for the service and experiences beyond video.

The service is set to launch by 2020 and will form a key part of Discovery’s expanding portfolio of services that will enable fans to “view and do.”

Discovery president and chief executive David Zaslav said: “The new platform will be the first global direct-to-consumer (D2C) 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.”

UKTV joint-partnership
The deal also gives Discovery and BBC a structured split that complements the strategic focus and commercial business of both organisations.

Both organisations take on channels which align with their respective editorial strategy strengthening Discovery’s factual entertainment portfolio and the BBC’s entertainment channels. 

The deal is expected to be formalised in late Spring 2019 when Discovery will take full control of lifestyle channels Good Food, Home and Really, while BBC Studios will acquire the remaining seven channels – Alibi, Dave, Drama, Eden, Gold, Yesterday and W – along with digital player UKTV Play, and the UKTV brand. 

Following these changes, the entertainment channels will continue to operate under the UKTV brand out of UKTV’s offices and BBC Studios will look to grow investment into UK programming, including original content for the channels it will own. 

Following completion, BBC Studios Distribution president, UK, Ireland and ANZ Marcus Arthur will also assume the role of UKTV chief executive.

Money matters
As part of the UKTV agreement, BBC Studios will make payments totalling £173 million to Discovery, which includes a balancing payment in relation to the channels acquisition and the assumption of £70 million of debt, currently financed by Discovery. 

Discovery will also receive at least an additional £10 million from UKTV, as the parties will share the existing cash on the company’s balance sheet, reflecting outstanding dividend, and other ancillary value transfers to Discovery through the transaction.

BBC Studios and Discovery have also agreed to a short-term Programme Licensing Agreement for the supply of BBC Studios lifestyle content to Discovery’s UKTV channels in the UK.

Timeline of Partnerships between the BBC and Discovery Communications


  • June Discovery Channel launches in the US featuring numerous productions from the BBC.


  • September BBC and Discovery Communications announce $600 million global content and network partnership.
  • October Animal Planet, Discovery’s third network, launches in the US in cooperation with the BBC.


  • June Animal Planet and People+Arts launch in Latin America, as a joint venture with BBC Worldwide. Other markets follow in coming years.
  • December BBC and Discovery form partnership to launch BBC America in the US; the partnership runs until 2006.


  • April The three-hour special, Walking With Dinosaurs, produced by BBC, airs on Discovery Channel setting the all-time US cable ratings record and remains the most-viewed telecast in the channel’s history to date.


  • January Blue Planet: Seas of Life, produced by BBC, premieres on Discovery Channel.
  • March BBC and Discovery Communications announce “The Deal of the Decade,” a landmark ten-year extension to the global partnership originally commenced in July 1996.


  • January Long-term partnership agreement between Discovery Communications and BBC to distribute the BBC World News channel in the US until 2011.


  • March BBC and Discovery Channel co-produce award-winning 11-part series, Planet Earth, which becomes the most-watched US cable event of all time.


  • March BBC and Discovery Channel co-produce LIFE, a follow up to Planet Earth.
  • November BBC and Discovery Communications extend strategic programming relationship by two years to 2014. BBC Worldwide sells to Discovery its 50 percent interest in the global TV channels joint venture Animal Planet and Liv.


  • February Discovery Communications and BBC sign long-term Olympic Games agreement.


  • March BBC and Discovery Inc sign landmark natural history partnership including co-development agreement.