The BBC is understood to be in late-stage negotiations with Discovery, the US company with which it co-owns UKTV, to break up their shared asset. The deal is likely to impact plans to create a multi-channel streaming service.

According to the Guardian, the BBC, which has wanted to take over the £90m profit-making UKTV fully, began exploring full ownership after the market circumstances changed: Discovery’s takeover of Scripps in March 2018 handed it the co-ownership of UKTV. The BBC held talks with the UK’s other terrestrial broadcasters, ITV and Channel 4, but they came to no arrangement before the 90-day window closed. The BBC was unable to make an offer by itself.

Now, the BBC and Discovery have “all but agreed” a deal to break up UKTV, the Guardian reported. The broadcaster, which controls channels like Dave, Gold, and Drama, already pays the BBC £54m a year to show repeats of BBC shows. The new deal will see the two companies break apart their shared asset, splitting the channels between them, though there are no details yet as to how these would be divided.

Such a division could be costly for Channel 4, a potential partner to the BBC in any new digital project, as it currently manages UKTV’s ad sales, which stand at around £250m a year. Depending on the division, Discovery could end up taking a large amount of the business to its own ad manager, Sky.

UKTV has been a blocker on talks between the BBC, Channel 4, and ITV to create a UK streaming service that could offer some competition to the American giants Netflix and Amazon. The BBC’s practice of packaging VOD rights deals differently for each buyer has been criticised by platforms such as Virgin Media.

Change may be necessary, however; despite the BBC’s traditional dominance in TV and radio in the UK, Netflix is winning the battle for young consumers.

Sourced from the Guardian