Discovery Eyes More Green

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New York— Now, David Zaslav needs to find some corporate marketing green.

Zaslav, who became CEO of the Silver Spring, Md.-based nonfiction media company in January, is directing a global, cross-platform ecology-oriented initiative titled PlanetGreen, centered around the conversion of Discovery Home Channel to an environmentally focused service in 2008.

Focusing on sustainable development, conservation efforts and organic lifestyles, the 50-million home network will target the growing base of consumers and companies interested in reversing mankind’s abuse of Earth’s limited resources.

Eileen O’Neill, former general manager of Discovery Health Channel, will oversee the eco-effort and not-yet-named service.

$50M COMMITMENT

During an upfront presentation here Thursday, Zaslav said Discovery would commit $50 million to green programming for the dedicated service and across the company’s other platforms.

He asked the assembled media buyers and planners whether they “were ready to change the world,” adding that “we want you to be part of it” when the service bows next year.

Zaslav said Discovery was encouraged by viewer response to Planet Earth, the 11-part series (averaging a 3.6 household rating through its first five hours) that he said was on track to become “the most-watched natural history program” in TV history.

“I think we’ve hit a chord [with Planet Earth]; people are looking for a place to come,” he said in an interview after the presentation. “Much of the spending will be on the new network. We’re going to come out strong with good content to build that place. It has to be warm, it has to be real, it has to be authentic. We’ll put big tent poles on all our other networks, but go deeper on this one.”

Zaslav said Discovery was “looking for a number of advertisers with category exclusivity to come on board with us, to co-brand, to be part of an overall package with value to them and us.”

DCI advertising sales president Joe Abruzzese said Discovery wants 10 to 20 clients to get involved. Asked if there are a lot of green budgets out there, Abruzzese said: “I don’t know yet. Are these really new dollars? Probably not. Marketing is marketing. But I do think it’s going to be hard for a client to say they’re not interested” in green issues.

Discovery also discussed the third-quarter launch of iPremieres, an online platform through which Discovery will offer two full-length, ad-supported episode premieres per week.

That content, on Discovery.com, will come from new and returning series — including Discovery’s Dirty Jobs and TLC’s American Chopper — and include taggable bonus material.

Attendees also learned Discovery’s ad sales force will handle upfront negotiations for the 2007-08 TV season for Travel Channel, being sold to Cox Communications along with $1.275 million in cash for the cable operator’s 25% interest in Discovery Communications. Liberty Media’s Discovery Holding Co. is upping its equity stake in Discovery to 66% from 50%.

After the presentation, Abruzzese said he’d “be surprised if we weren’t selling for Travel for many years.”

As for new programming, Discovery Channel will present the green special-event series Ten Ways to Save the Planet in third quarter 2008. Other highlighted shows include Josh Bernstein’s Adventure, in which the Digging for the Truth star Discovery hired away from The History Channel makes an expedition to determine the thickness of ice at the North Pole, among other destinations.

For TLC, spinoffs took center stage. Stacy London, the fashionista host of series What Not to Wear, will bring her sassy stylings to a primetime talk show, bowing in the fourth quarter, called Shut Up! It’s Stacy London. Her What Not to Wear co-host, Clinton Kelly, will lead Mind Your Manners in first quarter 2008.

ANIMAL FLICKS

At Animal Planet, viewers will find a movie franchise on Saturdays, premiering with Stuart Little on May 19. The network is also buttressing its “Tail-Evision Friday” lineup by adding Leemur Kingdom and Orangutan Island to the third season of its top show Meerkat Manor. Planet’s Best With Terri and Bindi will find the late Steve Irwin’s wife and daughter hosting top wildlife specials on Sunday nights.

BBC America, for which Discovery handles ad-sales and distribution duties, is finessing its primetime schedule into a themed approach under the leadership of new president Garth Ancier. The network’s lineup will feature such 8 to 10 p.m. blocks as “Murder Monday” and “Wicked Wednesday,” home to scripted thrillers and sexed-up soaps. The channel also will strip British primetime sudser Hollyoaks weeknights at 10 p.m. and has beefed up its BBC World News presentations.

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