Discovery, BBC Extend Global Pact

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In a deal valued at up to $400 million, Discovery Communications Inc. and the British Broadcasting Corp. have agreed to a 10-year extension to their global alliance, officials said Friday.

"This sends a message to the marketplace that Discovery and the BBC will continue to be significant players in nonfiction programming, that this kind of programming is going to continue to be generated," DCI spokesman David Leavy said.

The new deal between the BBC, BBC Worldwide Ltd. and DCI extends their joint venture— now in the final year of its initial five-year period — through 2012.

The original alliance, signed and announced in March 1998, was formed in order for DCI and the BBC to launch channels and create factual programming for the global market.

At the time, DCI was committed to invest $565 million in the deal for channel development and production funding. With the extension, DCI is expected to invest $35 million to $40 million a year on programming, according to sources.

New elements to the alliance include: the co-production of high quality "real-world" programming, the development of jointly owned networks around the world, and the development and distribution of BBC America. The BBC is the sole owner of the 26-million-subscriber network, but DCI handles its affiliate sales

In addition to BBC America, the joint venture has led to the development of People+Arts, which now reaches more than 12 million homes in Latin America, and Animal Planet, which reaches more than 130 million in 70 countries. The BBC owns 20 percent of the domestic Animal Planet network.

One of the partnership's priorities is to expand People+Arts presence and make it a major player in Latin America, according to Leavy.

The joint venture has also created award-winning, high-rated non-fiction programming, such as Walking With Dinosaurs— the most-watched documentary in U.S. cable history — its sequel Walking With Prehistoric Beasts
and Blue Planet: Seas of Life.

"The next 10 years of this partnership will continue to strengthen the quality, scope and reach of all Discovery's brands," DCI chairman John Hendricks said in a statement.

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