The Documentary Channel has been sold to the British Broadcasting Corporation, which plans to turn it into one of its international brands.

The commercial arm of the BBC - BBC Worldwide - has bought the independently-owned channel screened on Sky since 2006.

From March the BBC - whose worldwide arm also owns UKTV and BBC World News - is turning the Documentary Channel into a Kiwi-fied version of its international brand BBC Knowledge - based out of Sydney.

It will be the first time that a locally-owned independent channel on Sky has been sold overseas and to a big international player.

Owner Richard Driver - who came into television as a presenter of music show Radio With Pictures and as a TV producer - is understood to have signed a lucrative deal for the sale.

Driver said that the BBC had the right sensibility and believed it would maintain aspects of the Documentary Channel mix that contributed to its appeal.

Sky TV bosses - who have agreed to screen the new replacement channel - said inevitably some documentaries that appeared on Documentary would not appear on BBC Knowledge.

The Sky-owned Arts Channel might pick up programmes that were being missed because of the change, said chief executive John Fellet.

The factual channel is relatively new on the world stage and shows on pay TV in Australia.

BBC Worldwide Australia general manager Tony Iffland would not not spell out the new line-up for the Kiwi channel.

"Creating a tailored factual offering specifically for New Zealand tastes and preferences is at the very core of our content strategy," said the Sydney-based manager for BBC Worldwide Australia.

Promotions for the Australian BBC Knowledge focused on shows like Top Gear and James May's Toy Stories as well as some programmes that have screened on Documentary Channel.

Around 30 per cent of Documentary Channel content was sourced from the BBC and Iffland insisted the local channel would serve local tastes. He said BBC Knowledge wanted to build on the audience for the Documentary Channel.

"We are not just going to pump in stuff from somewhere else."