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Discovery Boosts Global Production with $1 Billion Budget

Discovery's international shows include survival adventure series 'Free Ride'

EDINBURGH — Discovery Networks International is beefing up its global production activities by ordering more shows from outside the U.K.

Two new commissions from Australian production companies announced at the Edinburgh Television Festival were examples of the new policy.

The initiative will see DNI’s new content prexy, Marjorie Kaplan, oversee an annual budget of $1 billion, of which $45 million will be spent in London.

“Sydney Harbour Uncovered,” made by WTFN, and “Question Everything,” made by Essential Media, which also has an office in Los Angeles, were among several new DNI titles unveiled by chief creative officer Phil Craig.

“Nowadays we are more open to production companies outside the U.K. producing shows for us,” said Craig, who reports to Kaplan.

Discovery has invested in several British production companies including so-called super-indie All3Media, which it co-owns with Liberty Global. There has been criticism that DNI favors commissioning from within Discovery, rather than buying shows from companies the cable channel does not own.

“I’d say that under a quarter of our commissions are from companies that are owned by us,” said Craig, who denied giving Discovery-run shingles special access.

One new show that does come from inside the DNI stable is survival adventure series “Free Ride,” produced by U.K. outfit Raw, acquired by the cable web last year. In the series, U.S. adventurer Rob Greenfield buddies up with British filmmaker James Levelle as they attempt to travel the world with no money and no plans.

“There’ll be no fakery, no pre-booked Holiday Inns. Rob and James hope to live on the kindness of strangers or earn their living by doing odd jobs or picking food,” said Craig.

The DNI chief creative officer indicated he would like to make content linked to the Olympics, whose European TV rights from 2018 were bagged by pay TV network Eurosport earlier this year. The pan-European sports web is now wholly owned by Discovery.

“I believe that part of the deal means we get privileged access to Olympics content,” he said.

The Olympics deal has been seen as a huge coup for Discovery and potentially threatens to end the BBC’s dominance of the sports in the U.K.

From 2022, Discovery will control British rights to the Games, which Craig signaled could end up either on ITV or Channel 4, rather than the BBC.

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