Discovery Will Create Its Own Global Streaming Service as Part of New BBC Content Partnership

10-year deal brings shows like Planet Earth to OTT offering

"We hope to fill the void in the global marketplace for a dedicated high quality product," said Discovery CEO David Zaslav. Getty Images
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Discovery Inc., the biggest remaining major media company without an OTT strategy, has finalized its direct-to-consumer plans.

As part of huge new 10-year content partnership with BBC Studios, Discovery will create a global streaming service, which it said will launch “by 2020,” featuring its own programming library, original content and what Discovery calls “experiences and offerings that go well beyond video.”

Discovery acquired exclusive global streaming rights to hundreds of hours of BBC programming across factual genres, including natural history franchises like Planet Earth, Blue Planet, Life and Dynasties, as well as future BBC-commissioned BBC Studios series, after their linear airings.

As part of the deal—which is effective in all territories except for the U.K., Ireland and greater China—BBC Studios will create new landmark factual content for Discovery, which will air on Discovery’s linear and digital networks.

Discovery president and CEO David Zaslav said in a statement that the OTT offering will be “the definitive global streaming product for curious and passionate viewers of all generations who want the most trusted, family-friendly storytelling in the world.”

Zaslav added, “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.”

BBC director-general Tony Hall said in a statement, “This is our largest ever content sales deal. 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 Discovery/BBC partnership includes a U.K.-specific element involving the UKTV channels. Discovery will take full control of UKTV’s lifestyle channels Good Food, Home and Really, adding them to its portfolio of 16 U.K. channels. BBC Studios, meanwhile, will acquire the other seven UKTV channels—Alibi, Dave, Drama, Eden, Gold, Yesterday and W—along with digital player UKTV Play and the UKTV brand.

The two companies have been in business since Discovery Channel launched in 1985 in the U.S. In 1996 they began a series of content and network partnerships—teaming up on series like Planet Earth, Walking With Dinosaurs, Life and Blue Planet—that ran until 2014.

Prior to today’s news, Discovery Inc. was the biggest media company that had not committed to a streaming strategy. Disney, AT&T, Apple and Comcast will all be rolling out streaming offers over the next year, while Viacom recently bought Pluto TV—the free, ad-supported streaming service—which will be its OTT cornerstone.

Last summer, Zaslav said he had been mulling a direct-to-consumer model with all of Discovery’s networks—“these great global brands with characters and shows and a fantastic library”—that he could sell domestically or globally at a price of $5 to $8 per month.

Ultimately, he said at the time, Discovery could choose to go direct-to-consumer on its own or team up with another company. With today’s announcement, he seems to have settled on a solution that combines both those options.

@jasonlynch Jason Lynch is TV Editor at Adweek, overseeing trends, technology, personalities and programming across broadcast, cable and streaming video.