Discovery Communications Inc. is acquiring Glenn
Jones' Knowledge TV with an eye toward possibly using its 20 million subscribers as a
distribution platform for Discovery Health Channel, which debuts in August
Last week, DCI unveiled its plans to take control of
Knowledge, buying it for an undisclosed price.
"It's a complicated deal, but effectively,
we're buying it," said Bill Goodwyn, senior vice president of affiliate sales
and marketing for Discovery Networks U.S. "They will continue to run it for a period
of time until we decide what to do with it."
DCI will talk with Knowledge's affiliates about the
future of the network and where they want to see it go, according to Goodwyn.
Those discussions will include asking cable operators what
they would think about the network's format being changed to that of Discovery
Health, or some other revamping of the existing format, he added. "We will ask how we
can make it a more valuable entity."
DCI is being careful about how it approaches and consults
with Knowledge TV's affiliates on switching out any of its analog subscribers for
The company learned that lesson one year ago, when it tried
to acquire Courtroom Television Network. DCI's effort to convert Court TV's
analog shelf space to either its health network or Travel Channel drew the ire of cable
operators, and the sale never went through.
If DCI can convert Knowledge TV's subscribers to
Discovery Health, it would have a nice base to compete against its rival, The Health
Network, which Fox/Liberty Ventures is launching in mid-July by merging America's
Health Network and Fit TV.
The Health Network will kick off with 17 million
subscribers, a combination of part-time and full-time.
About 16 million of Knowledge's 20 million subscribers
are full-time, with the remainder part-time.
Knowledge TV debuted in November 1987 as MEU: Mind
Extension University, offering home education courses. It relaunched as a broader service,
Knowledge TV, in October 1996.
Knowledge TV general manager Bob Jones said Glenn Jones (no
relation) now has "his interests and visions in some other areas," prompting the
sale of the network.
The network was doing well in terms of its programming, and
it had won some awards in that arena, Bob Jones added.
"The thing we couldn't crack was
distribution," he said. "It's hard for a small channel without
Discovery Health is set to launch as an analog cable
channel Aug. 2, while its Web site will come online July 1.
At the National Show in Chicago last week, Discovery Health
unveiled its debut primetime schedule.
The network's primetime weekly series include: Take
Charge!, stories of personal empowerment; Lifeline, behind-the-scenes stories
from hospitals and medical centers; Health Showcase, offering diverse segments on
health and medicine; Body Almanac, which uses medical imaging to explore the body; She
TV, a health show for women; and Vital Breakthroughs, groundbreaking stories
that have drastically changed the world of medicine.