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FitTV Adds Discovery Health Fare

1/16/2011 11:01 PM Eastern

Discovery Health, thought to be defunct
after it was replaced by OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network
on New Year’s Day, will live on as part of a joint
network collaboration with Discovery’s 50 millionsubscriber,
exercise-themed network FitTV.

The new service, dubbed Discovery Fit & Health, will
launch Feb. 1 in FitTV’s former channel berth and feature
most of the old Discovery Health’s most-popular shows,
including Dr. G: Medical Examiner and I’m Pregnant and
…,
as well as FitTV’s exercise and fitness-themed shows,
which will air mostly during an early-morning programming
block on weekdays, Laura Michalchyshyn, president
and general manager of the new network,
told Multichannel News.

“It will feature the best of programming
from Discovery Health and some
of the exercise and popular characters
in the fitness genre from FitTV,”
she said. “We’re creating a brand-new
channel that’s really going to be based
on dramatic, real-life storytelling and
redemption.”

Michalchyshyn said the decision to
combine the two brands was made recently
after the company realized that the
Discovery Health brand and its programming
was still popular with viewers, even
as the network was winding down to make
room for OWN.The network averaged 252,000 primetime
viewers in 2010, up slightly from the 250,000 it averaged the
year prior.

“We’re really proud of OWN, but we realized that Discovery
Health’s programming was still resonating with the
network’s loyal audience even at the end of the year,” Michalchyshyn
said. “We realized there was an opportunity.”

Most of the network’s daytime and primetime lineup
will feature existing Discovery Health shows such as 911:
The
Bronx, and Untold Stories of the ER. New original programming
will be added
to the network later in the
month, she said.

Traditional FitTV programming,
including Bodies
In Motion
, Gilad, Namaste
Yoga
and Shimmy, will air as
part of a daily early-morning
block from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m.
“It’s early morning exercise
to help you get out of bed and
get on with your day.”

Michalchyshyn said Discovery had not spent “a lot of time”
on FitTV, which is not Nielsen-rated, but said the programming
still resonates with viewers. “This is kind of appointment
programming for people who want to exercise, but
don’t want to go to the gym or exit the building,” she said.
“It was a successful brand in this one category, but we’re going
to blow it out into a larger, more-robust
channel.”

Discovery Fit & Health will also acquire
programming from both domestic and international
outlets. The network’s schedule
will also feature popular Discovery Health franchises
like “Baby Week,” “Psych Week,” “Adventures in Parenting”
and “New Year, New You.”

Michalchyshyn will oversee Discovery Fit and Health, as
well as Planet Green. She’ll report to Henry Schleiff , who last
week was placed in charge of the Emerging Networks group
— which also includes Investigation Discovery and Military
Networks — as part of a Discovery Communications management
restructuring effort.

Discovery also announced several big staff changes last
week, naming former TLC president and general manager
Eileen O’Neill as group president for Discovery and TLC.
Clark Bunting will remain president and general manager
for Discovery Channel, while TLC chief operating officer Edward Sabin will serve as acting general manger for
TLC until a permanent GM is named. Both will report to
O’Neill.

In other Discovery reorganizational news, Animal Planet
chief Marjorie Kaplan now serves as president for Animal
Planet and Science Channel, with Science Channel
general manager Debbie Myers reporting to her, the network
said.

September