BBC America was formed on May 1, 1981 as Lionheart Television International, Inc., a joint venture primarily consisting of Western World Television and Public Media, Inc. Lionheart took over the US distribution rights to the BBC's television output after a previous deal with Time-Life Television expired, as well as that of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. The BBC eventually bought Lionheart outright by 1987, making it their North American distribution arm, which was renamed to "BBC America" in 1994, and later launched as a television channel in March 1998. In 2014, AMC Networks purchased a 49.9% stake in the company, replacing Discovery Inc. as the BBC's managing partner in the US.
1st Logo (1982-1987)
Logo: On a black background, a white drawing of a lion zooms in before stopping, taking up a good portion of the screen. The lion is drawn in an ugly "ornate" style with its tounge sticking out, a collar-like mane, and rather "fluffy" appearance. Its also holding a specter in its front right (or left, depending on how you see it) paw, with 2 wing-like attachments at the top and emitting lightning bolts off of it. From the bottom of the specter, the text "A BBC TV PRODUCTION" zooms in and settles below the lion, with "BBC" in a larger, "3D"-styled font. A few seconds later, it "flips" around to reveal "Distributed By" in a small print, as well as "LIONHEART TELEVISION INTERNATIONAL, INC." in a larger print. "LIONHEART" is also presented in a similar "ornate" style.
Trivia: The lion in the logo is part of the BBC's Coat of Arms (though not this crude, obviously).
- For shows produced by ABC, the text will instead read "AN ABC PRODUCTION" with "ABC" larger than the rest.
- A different version of this logo had the lion and "LIONHEART" text on a chrome silver plate, flying up from the bottom of the screen. After it settled, the regular text fades in.
- A still version exists where the logo's colored in orange.
Technique: Scanimate animation.
Music/Sounds: A Moog synthesizer tune that starts with what sounds like a "winning" sound effect on a slot machine or a video game, which is followed by a fanfare.
Music/Sounds Trivia: This logo's soundtrack is perhaps more notable nowadays for its use on the outro for some videos by Everything Is Terrible!
Availability: Extinct. Usually replaced with the 2nd logo. It may or may not appear on the original VHS of The Home Whovian. It did appear on some episodes of the Blackadder series when last seen on New York's WLIW 21 in the 2000s.
2nd Logo (1987-1991)
Logo: Against a black screen, many white dots "dissolve" upwards and form a red and white lion's head. The words "LIONHEART TELEVISION - THE BBC IN AMERICA" appear from the bottom of the screen while a red and white stripe is "drawn" under the lion's head. There is a "V" shaped bend in the stripe at the part below the head.
Variant: Some shows had a copyright date below the logo. Sometimes, the animation would begin superimposed over a scene from the preceding program.
Technique: Early computer animation.
Music/Sounds: None, or the end music of the show.
Availability: Can still be seen at the end of Are You Being Served? episodes when seen in certain markets (WLIW 21 in New York and East Tennessee PBS in Knoxville, for instance). Also at the end of some Fawlty Towers reruns. The version with the superimposition and the copyright date was seen at the end of the short-lived U.S. adaptation of Top of the Pops, which aired briefly Friday late-nights on CBS in the 1987-88 season.
3rd Logo (1991-1995)
Logo: The 1985-1991 BBC1 "COW" globe is seen spinning around while parallelograms with the letters "BBC" drop over the globe. Under the "BBC", three red lines and the words "LIONHEART TELEVISION" appear with "A BRITISH BROADCASTING CORPORATION COMPANY" in small letters underneath.
Technique: CGI animation.
Music/Sounds: A synthesized fanfare that sounds vaguely like the one in the 1st logo.
Music/Sounds Variant: On Madison's Adventures: Growing Up Wild, it uses the 1987 ITC Entertainment Group Gold Diamonds fanfare.
Availability: Rare, but seen a good deal on A&E (Lovejoy, A Touch of Frost, Pole To Pole with Michael Palin) and PBS until the mid '90s.
- Its first appearance appears to have been on original PBS prints of Keeping Up Appearances, first broadcast on PBS stations in late 1991/early 1992.
- This was also used to replace the older Lionheart (and Time-Life) logos on reissued BBC library shows (i.e. Fawlty Towers, Are You Being Served? (other/later episodes, including “The Hero”), Good Neighbours, 'Allo, 'Allo, To The Manor Born).
- This also appeared on some of the CBS/FOX-distributed BBC Video tapes (Blackadder's Christmas Carol; Shada).
1st Logo (1994-1997)
Logo: Same as the 1992 BBC Video logo, except the words "WORLDWIDE AMERICAS" appear under the BBC box logo.
Technique: Same as the 1992 BBC Video logo.
Availability: Appeared at the end of Red Dwarf and other British programs that appear on PBS stations. It may appear on episodes of Last of the Summer Wine (Series 10 and Series 11), if your station is running them.
2nd Logo (1998-2001)
Logo: We start with a closeup of the globe hot-air balloon seen on BBC One's UK idents from 1997 to 2002. Then, in a very quick flash, a box appears against a blue background. It contains footage of the same balloon over a river and to the right of a riverside building. Under the picture are the words "BBC (in the Box logo) AMERICA presents", and the "BBC AMERICA" part expands as the logo fades out.
Technique: A mix of live-action and computer animation.
Music/Sounds: A light piano tune that ends in a heavily reverberated note with the "flash". The tune itself is taken from one of the BBC One idents from between 1997 and 2002.
- Previously seen as the opening bumper for many British television programs on PBS stations.
- It can still appear on programs such as Keeping Up Appearances, Fawlty Towers, Waiting for God, As Time Goes By (up to series 8), Last of the Summer Wine (up to series 21) and Are You Being Served?, if your station has older prints.
3rd Logo (2001-2007)
Logo: Inside a dark room, a silhouette of a woman is seen blowing red roses out of her hand. The screen then turns white with the left side of the screen being filled with a hazy blue/red blob. As the roses fully blow out, an air haze is seen, with what looks like a blurry United Kingdom flag (even waving as such). The BBC America logo appears at the bottom.
Technique: Live-action combined with computer effects.
Music/Sounds: A techno tune with a female soloist in the background.
Availability: Less common than the previous logo, but it still appears on older prints of As Time Goes By (Series 9), To The Manor Born, Last of the Summer Wine (from Series 22 to Series 27; Series 28 and Series 29 don't have any logo at all) and the Are You Being Served? episode "Do You Take This Man?".
4th Logo (June 1, 2005-November 19, 2018)
Logo: On a dark cloudy background, we see the 1997 BBC logo along with the text "WORLDWIDE AMERICA" (with "WORLDWIDE" on top of "AMERICA") emerging from the clouds.
Variant: There is a variant with the print logo on a white background.
Technique: Simple, but effective CGI.
Music/Sounds: A whoosh.
Availability: Seen at the beginning (and sometimes end) of Dancing with the Stars. The print logo appears on BBC-licensed games, like Dancing With the Stars: We Dance! for Nintendo DS.