Channel licenses registered in the U.K. with the media regulator Ofcom are currently valid throughout the 28-nation European Union. But as Britain prepares to exit the E.U. on March 29, and with an E.U.-U.K. separation deal still not agreed, channel operators are concerned about the future status of those British-issued licenses.
The U.K. is the largest single international market for Discovery, which has a major base in west London. It confirmed the channels move to the Netherlands on Friday. “Given Brexit, Discovery is now applying for new broadcast licenses in the Netherlands for its E.U. pay-TV channel portfolio,” the company said.
Discovery is one of the major international channel operators, with a raft of services in Britain and the rest of Europe. Its Netherlands move will send a chill through the British TV industry as it grapples with the implications of the U.K. leaving the E.U.
Turner and NBCUniversal have already applied for channel licenses in Bavaria, Germany. Several other international channel operators have handed in their licenses in recent months.
Discovery has shed jobs in the U.K. recently but said it remains committed to the market. “Discovery is retaining a large hub in the U.K. and has renewed, on a long term, the lease for its main London office in west London, which houses more than 1,000 people,” it said.
It added: “The company is retaining its Ofcom licenses for its 16 channels in the U.K. and holds significant investments in the market, including stakes in UKTV, All3 Media and PlaySports Group.”