Discovery Picks Netherlands for Base as No-Deal Brexit Looms

(Bloomberg) -- Discovery Inc. is applying for broadcast licenses in the Netherlands to keep its pay-TV channels such as Animal Planet from going dark in the European Union in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Discovery is also establishing a European operational headquarters in the Netherlands, the company said in an emailed statement on Friday. The U.S. broadcaster is among global media companies that use Britain as a regional hub and without an extension of the status quo, won’t be able to use U.K. licenses to beam content into the EU.

“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,” the company said in the statement, adding that it’s retaining U.K. licenses for its 16 channels in the country.

U.K. politicians resumed debating Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal on Friday, with speculation mounting that exit day will be delayed. Like Discovery, some media companies are already taking action. Turner Broadcasting System Inc., a subsidiary of AT&T Inc.’s WarnerMedia, said in November it had started applying for broadcast licenses in Germany, though it plans to keep London as its main European base.

Bloomberg on Nov. 28 reported that Discovery was laying the groundwork to move employees and broadcast licenses. The company didn’t specify on Friday how many employees would be based in the Netherlands. Discovery, which also owns Eurosport, holds “significant” investments in Britain, including stakes in UKTV Media Ltd., All3 Media Group Ltd. and Play Sports Group Ltd., it said.

“We welcome companies looking for an alternative as a new business location,” said Eric Wiebes, the Dutch minister of economic affairs, in an e-mailed statement. “The Dutch government readily supports companies and sectors that see extra opportunities in the Netherlands.”

International media companies collectively spend about 1 billion pounds ($1.28 billion) annually in the U.K. on things like content, production facilities, and technology, according to research by media analysis firm Oliver & Ohlbaum.

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