Discovery is planning to move the playout of its non-live European channels out of London. The company says this has nothing to do with Brexit and is part of a plan to consolidate its playout to the network cloud and a single facility based in the United States.
Discovery delivers more than 100 television channels across Europe from its playout centre in West London. It is one of a number of international broadcasters that use London as a hub for the transmission of channels to the rest of Europe.
Currently, channels licensed by the United Kingdom regulator Ofcom can be transmitted into any of the other member states of the European Union under the country of origin principle.
Many international broadcasters, including Disney, Viacom and Turner use the United Kingdom licensing regime to broadcast across Europe.
The prospect of Brexit, the process by which the United Kingdom may leave the European Union, is casting a cloud of regulatory uncertainty over such an arrangement.
Sharon White, the chief executive of Ofcom, has said that a number of major broadcasters based in the United Kingdom have contingency plans to move editorial functions to other cities in Europe.
Discovery is reported to have lined up options for Amsterdam and Warsaw. The company, which owns Eurosport and has exclusive European television rights to the Olympics, also has a sports television facility in Paris.
However, Discovery says that the move is part of a larger technology strategy. “This is part of our vision to move to a more agile operational technology model,” a representative of Discovery said. “This has nothing to do with Brexit and everything to do with technology innovation being core to our company and brand.”
Discovery says it is transforming its business and is constantly looking at ways to improve operational effectiveness and efficiency while seeking new opportunities to grow.
The company is planning to consolidate global playout to a centre in Sterling, Virginia, in the United States. It says it will continue to employ 1,300 people in the United Kingdom and will look to develop the London playout centre as a hub for sport and live broadcasting.
Moving playout operations to network-based cloud infrastructure provides flexibility, enabling broadcasters to compete better with other online entrants to the market, like Netflix and Amazon.
Discovery completed its $14.6 billion acquisition of Scripps Networks Interactive in March, including a 50% share in UKTV.
The BBC has just days to exercise an option to buy out its new partner in UKTV at a set price. One possibility is for the BBC to enter into a joint venture with ITV to own UKTV.