Animal Planet Snares Wild Kingdom


Mutual of Omaha Insurance Co., which had a 20-year run as the sponsor of the
Wild Kingdom series that debuted on NBC and later ran in syndication,
signed a deal bringing the wildlife-documentary franchise to Animal Planet this

Animal Planet executive vice president and general manager Michael Cascio
said Friday that the network will present a package of six hour-long primetime

The first will air in September, with the balance running 'every six or eight
weeks' during the course of the 2002-03 season.

They may run more often during the summer, he added, to capitalize on the
broadcast networks' rerun-laden summer schedules.

The shows will cover six of the seven continents (sans Antarctica). The
September outing probably will be 'Elephants of Timbuktu,' a Discovery Networks
U.S. spokeswoman said.

Cascio declined to pin a dollar figure on the long-term
programming/advertising/marketing partnership. He called Mutual of
Wild Kingdom 'the Animal Planet of its day, back when there
were no cable networks.'

The insurance and financial-services provider will get billboards, bumpers
and four spots per show, as well as additional spots across the Animal Planet

But, Cascio emphasized, 'It's not just a time buy.'

Cascio said joint marketing and advertising efforts could include affiliate
promotions and the showcasing of Wild Kingdom merchandise in Discovery

He said both companies would be involved in conservation-themed outreach and
educational efforts, many of them children-oriented.

Original on-air Wild Kingdom hosts Jim Fowler and Peter Gros will act
as advisors to the new shows.

As for the old episodes of Wild Kingdom, which bowed on NBC in 1968
and aired in first-run barter syndication through 1988, Cascio said those were
'never really part of the discussion.'

Still, he added, some 'classic' footage will appear in the initial special
and perhaps in others, as well.