UKTV, one of the UK’s largest multi-channel broadcasters, is to be broken up and its channels split between current shareholders BBC Studios and Discovery.
The long-rumoured move was confirmed in a joint statement issued on Monday which also announced that Discovery will become the exclusive Subscription Video On Demand (SVOD) home – outside the UK, Ireland and Greater China – of BBC landmark natural history programmes, including the Planet Earth, Blue Planet and Life collection of titles.
Under the ten-year content partnership Discovery will also have exclusive SVOD rights to future BBC-commissioned landmark series from BBC Studios, following their linear transmission, as well as “hundreds of hours of BBC programming across factual genres”.
Discovery and BBC Studios have also signed a development deal to create new factual content for Discovery, with the US broadcaster co-funding a dedicated development team within BBC Studios.
Under the terms of the UKTV deal, which is expected to complete in late Spring 2019, Discovery takes full control of lifestyle channels Good Food, Home and Really, while BBC Studios acquires the remaining seven channels – Alibi, Dave, Drama, Eden, Gold, Yesterday and W – along with digital player UKTV Play, and the UKTV brand.
BBC Studios says these channels “are the most closely aligned to its own content strategy and supply” and that BBC programmes currently deliver around half their viewing and account for around 95% of BBC Studios’ content on the UKTV network.
Following these changes, the entertainment channels will continue to operate under the UKTV brand.
Marcus Arthur, President, UK, Ireland and ANZ, BBC Studios Distribution, will also assume the role of CEO, UKTV, replacing Darren Childs who recently announced he was stepping down after 8 years in the role.
Arthur, who joined BBC Worldwide in 1991, has previously held the roles of Managing Director, BBC Magazines and MD, Global Brands and New Ventures, and currently sits on the UKTV Board.
As part of the UKTV agreement, BBC Studios will make payments totalling £173m to Discovery.
BBC Studios and Discovery have also agreed a short-term Programme Licensing Agreement for the supply of BBC Studios lifestyle content to Discovery’s UKTV channels in the UK.
BBC Director-General, Tony Hall, said the deal was “brilliant news for audiences here as it will enable the BBC to invest even more in factual programming for them.”
He added: “That’s also why BBC Studios taking control of the UKTV channels that best fit our programmes 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.”
David Zaslav, President and CEO of Discovery, added: “As the two market leaders in landmark natural history and iconic factual programming, Tony 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.”
A BBC Studios spokesperson declined to say what impact today’s announcement would have on UKTV’s carriage deals with pay-TV providers such as Sky and BT, including whether broadcasters would see a reduction in the fees they pay owing to the transfer of three channels to Discovery.