Discovery Takes Full Control of Animal Planet

Discovery has acquired BBC Worldwide's 50% stake in Animal Planet and the Liv general entertainment channel for $156 million, ending a longstanding partnership between Discovery and the commercial arm of the BBC for global channels. The BBC and Discovery have however extended their co-production partnership through 2014.

"Acquiring BBC Worldwide's rights to the Animal Planet and Liv channel brands provides Discovery a strategic opportunity to create additional revenue and growth opportunities for our global business," noted Mark Hollinger, president and CEO of Discovery Networks International in a statement.

Animal Planet is available in about 170 markets around the world and Liv reaches about 33 markets in Latin America.

The BBC is under pressure at home to focus and streamline its operations. In a review of the BBC Worldwide's operations in November of 2009, the BBC Trust had urged the BBC Worldwide to focus on its wholly owned channels.

John Smith, CEO of BBC Worldwide noted in a statement that the sale was consistent with the Trust's recommendation and that growth of BBC-branded international channels "is an important strategic priority for BBC Worldwide....The sale of the 50% interest in Animal Planet and Liv will enable us to bring increased focus to these fast growing channels and to progress a number of other strategic priorities."

Around the world, BBC wholly owned channels include BBC America, BBC Entertainment, BBC Knowledge, BBC Lifestyle, BBC HD and CBeebies, which reach about 107 million subs in over 100 countries.

The new co-production agreement extends a longstanding cooperation between the two major producer of factual programming, an alliance that over the years has produced a number of blockbuster factual programs like Planet Earth, Blue Planet and Life.

"It will enable us to build on some of the natural history and specialist factual co-production we have already planned, such as David Attenborough's epic new series about the cycle of seasons, Frozen Planet, for 2011," noted Jana Bennett, director of BBC Vision.