BBC Ends 13-Year Partnership With Discovery

The UK network is selling its 50% stake back to Discovery for $156 million, but they'll still work together through 2014 to produce nature shows such as "Planet Earth."

LONDON – The BBC is bailing out of its 13-year old international channel partnership with Discovery, selling its 50% stake in international channels like Animal Planet and Liv (formerly People & Arts) back to Discovery for $156 million.

The move comes after the BBC Trust, the pubcaster’s governing board, said that the BBC Worldwide division that runs the partnership should focus instead on its wholly-owned and BBC-branded portfolio of international channels that includes BBC America, BBC Lifestyle and BBC Knowledge. Together the suite of genre-based channels have a total audience of 107 million subscribers in more than 100 countries.

But the BBC and Discovery will still co-produce landmark natural history series, announcing an extension to the deal that has produced shows like Planet Earth, Blue Planet and Wonders of The Solar System.

The strategic partnership will be extended to 2014, with the David Attenborough-fronted project Frozen Planet due to bow next year.

BBC Worldwide chief executive John Smith said the deal was "consistent" with the BBC Trust’s advice, while Discovery President and CEO Mark Hollinger said that full ownership of the Animal Planet and Liv brands would allow Discovery to refocus its strategic priorities.