BBC, Discovery sign global deal

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LONDON -- The BBC and Discovery Communi cations Inc. of the U.S. signed an agree ment on March 19 to create a global part nership in non-fiction broadcasting. The partners intend to create a worldwide net work of quality, factual channels, as well as establish the BBC's own network in the U.S. to showcase the programs of the U.K.'s state-owned broadcaster.

The joint venture will co-produce and commission BBC non-fiction programs, plus create and distribute factual TV channels around the world.

The BBC has no liability for funding the joint venture with Discovery and will con tribute to its programs. Although the BBC is a public service broadcaster, it gener ates income to support its domestic services by marketing its program-related products and services through its commercial arm, BBC Worldwide.

Two channel concepts have been launched so far, although others may be developed in the future. Animal Planet is already a suc cessful channel in the U.S., providing animal based programming featuring animals, their habitats and the people who care for them. The other concept is People and Arts, which explores history, cultures and civilizations and the people who have helped shape them. The channels were launched in Latin America in October 1997.

BBC America is a channel for the U.S. market, wholly-owned and managed by the BBC and featur ing BBC drama, comedy and entertainment pro grams, plus news provided by BBC World. The channel will be scheduled by the BBC and mar keted and distributed by Discovery Networks.

Dick Emery, acting chief executive of BBC Worldwide, says: "The conclusion of this major deal with such an experienced and re spected partner substantially completes the strategic positioning of BBC Worldwide. We can now take full advantage of the wealth of new opportunities in the competitive and rap idly-developing global market."

Discovery Communications is a privately held, diversified media company based in Bethesda, Maryland.

Copyright March 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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