Discovery Plunges Into Scripted Waters


Discovery Channel's initial voyage into the arena of original scripted movies won't obscure its focus on quality nonfiction programming, according to network executives.

The network's first scripted film —12 Days of Terror, based on a book of the same name about several shark attacks in 1916 — will be part of the 2004 "Shark Week" block, said Discovery Networks executive vice president and general manager Clark Bunting.

12 Days
is an extension of the network's long-form documentary shows like Walking With Cavemen, he added. Though they're nonfiction, such programs develop characters and storylines similar to those found in fictional films.

"Those shows were dramatically focused and took a series of individual stories and wove them into a scientifically and historically accurate documentary about life in those times," Bunting said. "So the movie is a logical extension from the storytelling techniques we've used for [Building the Great] Pyramid and Cavemen, and it's a new way to satisfy the audience."

Bunting said the network was careful not to take "dramatic licenses" within the film, noting that a train portrayed in the opening scene is "period correct."

"We really hammered home the need for historical accuracy and scientific basis of all of the stuff we present," he said.

While not concerned about alienating Discovery Channel fans with fictional fare, Bunting said the network has not scheduled any future scripted movies. Other nonfiction-based networks — like ESPN and Animal Planet, Discovery's sister service — have successfully developed original movies without incurring the wrath of viewers.

"It's not a major departure from what we already do, but the audience will tell us," Bunting said. "The biggest issue will be whether it fits with the brand.

"It's not about getting a high rating. It's about being true to the brand and providing high-quality programming."