Under the deal, reportedly its biggest ever, BBC Studios will take the helm of seven free-to-air and pay-TV channels including Dave and Gold which have carved out a profitable niche via broadcast of evergreen BBC hits from yesteryears such as Blackadder and Only Fools and Horses.
The deal, valued at £180m, is partly funded by a content partnership with co-owner Discovery. The BBC will license its natural history output like Planet Earth for use by the US pay-TV provider to use for the next decade.
For its part, Discovery will obtain the rights to Good Food, Home and Really.
The deal represents a significant financial boost for the BBC as it seeks to plug a £754m black hole in its coffers owing to changes to the license fee, with UKTV profits jumping by £29m to £90m over the past eight years, valuing the business at £750m.
BBC director general Tony Hall said: “BBC Studios taking control of the UKTV channels that best fit our programmes is good news,” said Tony Hall, the BBC director general. “It means a secure future with long-term commercial returns.”
The BBC was forced to deploy a mix of cash, debt and content to achieve its goal without the financial muscle to purchase the service outright. This saw it hand over £100m in cash and shoulder £70m of UKTV debt, topped up by a further £10m share of UK TV’s current dividend.
Other options under consideration had included the BBC entering into a £1bn joint venture with ITV to acquire UKTV.