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Discovery and BBC shut down joint programming effort

Factual channel Discovery and UK public broadcaster the BBC have called time on their programming initiative.

The production partnership has created iconic blue chip factual series including Life and Blue Planet and the end of the deal coincided with BBC Worldwide announcing it will invest in a wide range of BBC factual programming that it will represent internationally.

Discovery said that it and the BBC will continue to work together on previously announced series Hidden Kingdom, Survival and How to Build a Planet.

This summer Discovery announced a new US$500,000 fund for blue chip factual, which will involve it providing development funding for select projects.

Speaking to TBI a day before the termination of the BBC deal was made official, Luis Silberwasser, Discovery Networks International’s chief content officer said it launched the fund to show producers its doors were open to ideas for high end factual programmes. “We didn’t want producers to think we weren’t in the market for that type of programming – irrespective of the BBC we want to be in that market, that’s the message,” he said.

Discovery’s executive VP, production and development, landmark series and specials, Andrew Jackson, is deciding which projects the fund will contribute to and speaking about the end of the BBC deal. He said: “As Discovery’s global audiences continue to flourish, they demand the very best science and natural history programming.

“This is taking us in exciting, new directions, creating these essential shows for numerous cutting edge platforms. We look forward to working with the many talented production companies around the world, including the BBC, with whom we have enjoyed a long and successful relationship.”

Bal Samra, BBC commercial director, said: “Science and natural history programmes have always been a core part of the BBC’s DNA and we have ambitious plans for the future with an exciting range of new content in the pipeline. International demand for our content has never been higher and we continue to enjoy a collaborative and fruitful relationship with a wide range of coproducers.”

As the end of the programming deal was announced, the BBC’s commercial arm, BBC Worldwide, said it will be ramping up investment in factual content. Worldwide will become the primary coproduction partner of the BBC’s Natural History Unit, and the resulting programming will be on BBC channels in the UK and distributed by the sales unit.

The first wave of titles have already been announced and include blue-chip docs One Planet, The Hunt, Wild Alaska, and 24 Hours on Earth, which will be co-produced with BBC America and will premiere in the US on this channel. A further seven BBC Worldwide-backed titles include: Oceans, Kangaroo Dundee, The Rains, Sleepover at the Zoo, Wild Japan, Wild Patagonia and Wild New Zealand. All eleven titles will be distributed globally by BBC Worldwide.

Danny Cohen, director of BBC Television said: “Commercial investment through BBC Worldwide and our network of production partners around the world will ensure that we continue to make ambitious genre-defining series that connect audiences from London to Tokyo with science, history and the wonders of the natural world.”