Adding a sixth channel to its package of digital offerings,
Discovery Networks U.S. plans to launch a health network later this year.
With Discovery Health Channel, the programmer will be
taking a run at a niche where several companies have tried staking a claim. But none has
yet succeeded in establishing a strong brand or becoming a really dominant leader in terms
of health programming.
"This is a topic that audiences are going to be
passionate about," said Bill Goodwyn, senior vice president of affiliate sales and
marketing for Discovery Networks. "And no one owns this category and does it really
Discovery's plans for a digital health network come on
the heels of its announcement that it was debuting a fifth digital network, Discovery
Wings Channel: The Sky and Space Network, sometime this year.
Discovery sees health as a broad category with broad
appeal, so its health network can offer news and information on topics such as medicine,
nutrition, dieting and health trends, according to Goodwyn. He noted that Discovery
Channel and The Learning Channel both have health-related programming that could air on
In addition, Bethesda, Md.-based Discovery will have easy
access to the many medical experts who visit Washington, D.C., and it may set up a studio
to do live shows with them, Goodwyn said.
He plans to talk with cable operators during the next 60
days about Discovery Wings and Discovery Health, and then gauge what their launch dates
Discovery Health and Discovery Wings will be part of a
package of six specialty channels being marketed to MSOs under the new moniker,
"Discovery Showcase Networks."
They are most likely to get carriage on digital and
advanced analog. Operators will be able to take any one, or any combination of the six
networks, four of which are up and running.
As part of the repackaging, Discovery has just renamed one
of its digital networks, Discovery Living/How-To, now calling it Discovery Home &
Leisure Channel. "This will make it easier for consumers to understand what that
network is," Goodwyn said.
America's Health Network is taking a wait-and-see
attitude until it learns more about Discovery Health's programming model.
"It's [Discovery's health venture] another
sign that other people believe that the health category has come of age," said
Webster Golinkin, AHN's chairman and CEO. "We never expected to have the niche
all to ourselves."
In terms of other health programmers, Tele-Communications
Inc. has taken a stake in Kaleidoscope. And Fox/Liberty Networks plans to relaunch fitness
channel FiT TV.
Discovery's announcement about its Wings channel came
just one month before another aviation network is set to launch, Wingspan: Air & Space
Channel. Wingspan plans to roll out April 2, and it will initially launch on Media General
Cable in Fairfax, Va. Wingspan is also in negotiations with other MSOs, a network
Wingspan produces Discovery Channel series Wings.