Discovery Chief David Zaslav Calls Wildlife Titles ‘Planet Earth’ & ‘Blue Planet’ “Our Marvel” As It Eyes Expanded Universe

BBC America

Discovery and the BBC are going to create spin-offs and sequels of brands including Planet Earth, Blue Planet and Frozen Planet in a move that Discovery chief David Zaslav called their Marvel universe.

Zaslav also called the BBC the Boston Red Sox to its own New York Yankees and that it would be “crazy” not to bring together the two best teams in the natural history space.

This was on the heels of the two company’s landmark deal that will include exclusive rights to BBC Natural History Unit content for Discovery’s forthcoming streaming service, a pact to develop original content in the genre and the division of assets at UK broadcaster UKTV.

Zaslav said, “The IP is a big piece of the core strategy; these landmarks and that library is our Marvel IP catalogue. That’s the business we’re in. Those are the stories that are loved in every country in the world… Planet Earth, Life, Blue Planet, Frozen Planet… these are just the titles that exist that we will be doing spinoffs, sequels, characters and stories from that IP catalogue.”

It comes six years after Discovery and the BBC ended its previous partnership.

Speaking to Deadline about this gap, Zaslav said, “In terms of the BBC, there’s no question that we were stronger together. We were going hand in hand around the world and our mission was the same. For us, looking at them, we were looking over our shoulder and envying them and the incredible quality of what they were doing and so if we were the Yankees, they were the Red Sox so if we can bring the two best teams together, it’s crazy not to have it. The changing industry gave us a real ticket here together with this UK partnership that we picked up when we acquired Scripps. Our discussions had already been underway but it allowed us to do a much broader deal because we had the UK piece that we could rationalize.”

He added, “We have full energy in and we’re going to create something is really going to wow people.”

BBC Director General Tony Hall said that the deal, which was valued at £300M over ten years, was the British public broadcaster’s largest content deal ever and that it was “mission critical”. He thanked BBC Studios CEO Tim Davie and Director of Strategy & Business Development David Moody.

Zaslav said that the deal started over a dinner with Hall about a shared mission of documenting the planet. He said that it was “right on brand” for the company and that it was particularly high on forthcoming series including Simon Fuller-created Serengeti and Alastair Fothergill-produced Perfect Planet. Zaslav thanked a slew of execs for their help on the deal including Chief Development, Distribution & Legal Officer Bruce Campbell, Discovery Networks International’s President & CEO JB Perrette, Discovery & Factual Chief Brand Officer Nancy Daniels, Global Direct to Consumer CEO Peter Faricy and Discovery UK Chief James Gibbons.

He told Deadline that it hadn’t come up with a name yet for the service. He admitted that the company would look to provide the service for less than $5 per month. The fact that BBC Studios’ NHU shows such as Planet Earth and Blue Planet would come off of Netflix as a result of this exclusive deal was a big plus for it.

“The fact that this content will now be coming off of Netflix is important to us. The Netflix brand stands for scripted series and movies, that’s what Disney, HBO and Showtime are and we have a very different more targeted approach,” Zaslav added.

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