BBCWorldwide announces major nature series fronted by Top Gear’s Richard Hammond, pacts with Arte; ITV sells Titanic, Endeavour; Beta announces big-budget dramas; ZDF secures raft of sales including Into the Abyss and The Killing.

BBC Worldwide unveiled major wildlife series Planet Earth Live today at MIPTV. The corporation described it as the biggest live wildlife broadcast they had ever undertaken. The series is being made by the BBC’s Natural History Unit and is billed as “an epic live story following the critical life stages in some of the Earth’s most charismatic animals”.

Top Gear presenter Richard Hammond will host the series from Africa while Countryfile’s Julia Bradbury will co-host from North America. They will be joined by animal experts and a wildlife camera crew, which will use real-time filming techniques and up-close footage, shot in high definition.

It will follow the lives of a range of animals, including baby elephants in Kenya, black bears in Minnesota, macaque monkeys in Sri Lanka and grey whales in the Pacific.

Airing on BBC1, it will air simultaneously to a global audience.

Meanwhile subsidiary BBC Worldwide Australia has notched up its first presale for new crime drama Ripper Street, with Network Ten. Launching later this year, the eight-part series is set in and around Whitechapel in London’s East End in 1889, in the aftermath of the Jack The Ripper murders. The Tiger Aspect Productions, Lookout Point and BBC America production for the BBC stars Matthew Macfadyen, Jerome Flynn, Adam Rothenberg, Myanna Buring and David Dawson.

In other UK broadcaster news ITV Studios Global Entertainment has secured an output deal with one of China’s largest VoD providers and secured a raft of crime drama sales. The online content deal with will see Titanic, Appropriate Adult, The Jury, Case Histories and A Touch of Frost made available on the site. In addition, Inspector Morse prequel Endeavour and detective drama Vera have been picked up by broadcasters in Australia and New Zealand along with more Poirot and Murdoch Mysteries sales. Endeavour and Vera have been acquired by Australia’s Seven Network, TVNZ in New Zealand and Belgian public broadcaster VRT.

In European news, Arte France has signed its second coproduction deal with BBC Worldwide, becoming a partner on historical spy drama Spies of Warsaw (2x90′). The broadcaster joins TVP to coproduce the miniseries, which will be produced by Fresh Pictures.

According to C21, German producer and distributor Beta Film has partnered with producers in France and Italy on two new fantasy miniseries, and is also plotting a 12th Century period drama described as the next Borgia. Flight of the Eagle (12x60′) is a €25m (US$33.4m) production about Frederik II of Hohenstaufen, one of the most powerful European emperors of the Middle Ages, whose kingdom stretched across the continent.

The other fantasy mini, Merlin (2x120′), is currently in post-production and will air on French broadcaster TF1 later this year. It is produced by Lagardère Entertainment-owned GMT, with Beta distributing.

The distribution arm of German pubcaster ZDF has also been busy, clocking up multiple sales with the help of Titanic-related content and its portfolio of Scandinavian crime drama.

ZDF Enterprises has sold feature-length doc Saving the Titanic (1x90’) to Canada’s CBC, France’s Planète and Slovakia’s STV.

Season one (20x60’) of Danish crime drama The Killing has gone to Italy’s Rai 4 and Croatia’s HRT; Danish-Swedish coproduction The Bridge (5x110’) to Poland’s Ale Kino/Canal+ Poland; and season two of Danish crime drama The Protectors (5x100’) to Australia’s SBS.

On the documentary front, Werner Herzog’s films about death-row prisoners Into the Abyss (1x90’) and Death Row (4x60’) have both been sold to Discovery Italia, Discovery Nederland and Belgium’s VRT. Poland’s Ale Kino/Canal+ also picked up Death Row. Meanwhile, TV3 in Catalonia and France 5 each acquired a larger package of documentaries.

The UK’s Channel 5 announced that it has secured rights to reality format Big Brother from Endemol UK for another two years which will keep the series exclusively on C5 until 2014 while UK distributor Revolver Entertainment has acquired worldwide TV and home ent rights to Liam vs Josh; The Heartthrob Games, a 60-minute feature documentary charting the rise of the two hot young stars Liam [pictured] and Chris Hemsworth.

The Battle Of The Heartthrobs will be released in UK & US territories by Revolver Entertainment in early summer 2012.

In other news, Chello DMC has been selected by Shorts HD to provide playout and content management services for the channel, as well as representation services in the Netherlands and Flanders and in Latin American news, Grey Juice Lab has consolidated its presence in the region with the opening of a new service hub in Buenos Aires.