The deal, reported by the Financial Times, is aimed at attracting on-demand viewers, or what the FT described as the “Netflix generation”.
It comes as the broadcasters are set to split the pay and free-to-air channels broadcast by UK TV, which is jointly owned by the US company Discovery, and BBC Studios, the British broadcaster’s commercial entity.
Discovery will be the owner of the new natural history service, while the BBC will license content, which will include the highly popular programmes presented by Sir David Attenborough such as Blue Planet and Dynasties.
Discovery will provide content from its Animal Planet network, Discovery Channel, and Science Channel.
The new service has no name as yet, but it is known that, while it will be available in most major international markets, it won’t be streamed in the UK and China. An official announcement is expected within weeks.
The FT noted that the deal comes at something of a crossroads for the BBC, as it faces the need to further develop iPlayer, its digital platform, which received 3.6 billion streaming requests last year, as well as confront what could amount to a significant funding crisis.
The licence-fee-funded organisation currently receives money from the government to pay for free licences for the over-75s, but this financial support will end next year, and the public-service broadcaster must decide whether it can fund such a concession.
It also faces rapidly increasing competition from on-demand streaming services, such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.
BBC director-general recently Tony Hall recently described streaming as representing "the way people will consume the BBC in the future." He told the Financial Times that the iPlayer was "no longer a catch-up service . . . it’s a destination."
The BBC is planning to add to the iPlayer’s success with a new UK streaming service that’s being developed with ITV, showing content from both broadcasters.
Sourced from Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff