New York -- Discovery Networks U.S. will really put its
stamp on the former CBS Eye on People, now called Discovery People, by relaunching the
service with new personality-driven programming June 28, officials said last week.
One-half of Discovery People's schedule will be new to
the network in June. But most of that programming will come from the libraries of its
sister services -- Discovery Channel, The Learning Channel and Latin American People +
Arts -- bolstered by some acquisitions, said Charley Humbard, the executive in charge of
The network will become more
"personality-driven," according to Humbard, branching out beyond its former
spectrum of "headline-makers."
"We're going to 'Discovery-fy'
Discovery People," Humbard added.
The changes in June will mark Discovery's boldest
changes at Discovery People, which it purchased from CBS in December. The service now
reaches 9 million homes on analog and digital.
At Discovery's upfront presentation here last week,
Discovery Networks U.S. president Johnathan Rodgers said that even though Discovery People
may have lost its former president, Geoffrey Darby, "We love its library and
The network will continue to use as much CBS programming as
possible, as it prepares for a time "down the road, at least three years
[hence]," when it will get into "biopics [and] dramas," according to
One-half of Discovery People's schedule will still
come from CBS, with four of five series -- including Eyewitness, Signature and
David Frost: Interviews I'll Never Forget --staying on the lineup,
according to Humbard. But he added that Discovery is weeding out the shows that depended
on dated CBS library programming.
"We looked at the schedule, and we wanted to ensure
that the channel is relevant, and not interviews that are outdated," Humbard said.
"We want to maintain a high interest level in people and personalities."
Under CBS, the channel "had a lot of those
elements," according to Humbard, but it still lacked "timeliness and
Discovery People's lineup will focus on six
programming "strands," or categories, several of which will be actual series:
"People & Arts," dealing with creative minds in all of the arts;
"Witness," which allows viewers to share the drama of real-life stories;
"Hollywood Superstars," profiling "Left Coast" personalities;
"Deadly Minds," exploring the darker side of people famous and lesser-known;
"Rendezvous," offering news and insights on trendsetters; and "Feature
Presentations," with movies and documentaries offering profiles of their subjects.
A&E Television Networks has already launched a digital
service, The Biography Channel, that would seem to be tackling the same subject matter as
Discovery People. But Humbard claimed that there's a definite difference in the two
"We're at 9 million subscribers, and they're
just getting started," he said. "We plan on maintaining that beachhead. And The
Biography Channel is based on A&E's Biography library. It's very
formulaic in its approach to biographies. We will have a lot of approaches, versus a
A&E officials, however, didn't agree with
"We're used to Discovery imitating us,"
A&E vice president of public affairs and communications Gary Morgenstein said,
"but they're not even in the same league as Biography. Biography is
not a formula."
Morgenstein added that he's surprised that Discovery
isn't relaunching Discovery People on Halloween, because "that's usually
when you try to resurrect the dead. This network has already been found wanting by
consumers and cable operators."
By the fourth quarter, Discovery People hopes to have some
originally produced shows on the air, in addition to acquisitions and fare from the
The network is also buying theatrical documentaries to air.
Humbard cited When We Were Kings, the award-winning film on Muhammad Ali, as the
type of movie that he'd be interested in.
Discovery also modified Eye on People's distinctive logo so that it reflects the
network's new name and ownership. "[The old logo] had some branding value with
consumers," Humbard said.