Discovery Networks U.S. is taking off with a new channel
that will focus on flying and space exploration -- a niche service aimed at getting
launches on digital and advanced-analog platforms.
Discovery Wings Channel: The Sky and Space Network will
center on flying machines and on the people who design and fly them, with programming from
Discovery's library, as well as acquisitions and historical footage from the public
domain, said Bill Goodwyn, senior vice president of affiliate sales and marketing for
Discovery Networks U.S.
Later on, some original programming will be added to the
mix, he said.
Discovery envisions Discovery Wings as a specialized,
narrow-niche "videozine" that will attract a small, but passionate, viewership,
Goodwyn said. Some consumers might be willing to pay for Discovery Wings on digital, or
even as an a la carte offering on analog, he added.
Discovery hasn't set a launch date yet for Discovery
Wings. During the next 60 days, the programmer will talk to cable operators in earnest
about the proposed network, and it will then decide the right time for a rollout.
"Given the track record of Discovery, this network is
something that we'd want to take a look at," Cox Communications Inc. spokesman
Anthony Surratt said.
Most of the major programmers have set plans to create
digital networks, and Discovery was the first to actually roll out such a digital package.
Its four so-called digi-nets have already launched on the digital platforms of MSOs such
as Tele-Communications Inc. and Cox. The four networks are Discovery Kids, Discovery
Science, Discovery Living/How-To and Discovery Civilization.
Goodwyn said Discovery Wings will be added to this group,
which the programmer is describing as its "select" networks, as opposed to its
traditional analog channels. "Select" is a more accurate term than "digital
network," according to Goodwyn, because these services are getting launched on
advanced-analog systems, and not just on digital ones. In addition, MSOs can
"select" which ones they want to carry. All of the digi-nets, including
Discovery Wings, are available as stand-alones to operators, or in any combination.
Discovery Living/How-To deals with content somewhat similar
to Home & Garden Television's planned Do-It-Yourself digital network. When HGTV
announced DIY in January, chief operating officer Susan Packard said the digital network
would launch within 12 months. Now, HGTV won't roll out DIY until the tail end of
that time frame -- sometime in the first quarter of 1999 -- Packard said last week.
Discovery acknowledged that some operators have already set
up their digital lineups, but Goodwyn said he expects these to be rejiggered.
"There's already a first wave of services, but
operators will add new product for digital and advanced-analog," Goodwyn said.
"Operators will change out and redesign their packages."
Surratt noted that Discovery's four existing digital
networks "are a cornerstone of our digital programming," so Cox would be
interested in looking at the new Wings offering.
"Discovery owns that niche, and it has a track
record," Surratt said.
There will be license fees for Discovery Wings, and
operators will probably get discounts depending on how many Discovery networks they carry,
according to Goodwyn. The rate card hasn't been set yet, and Discovery is trying to
be flexible on all fronts, he added.
It's unlikely that Discovery will offer upfront
per-subscriber cash payments for Discovery Wings the way that it did for Animal Planet,
unless an MSO was offering a massive analog rollout for the new network, Goodwyn said.
"You won't see the traditional launch money that
was paid for analog carriage for networks like Fox News [Channel], Animal Planet and
HGTV," Goodwyn said. "We'd consider it, but it's probably not
appropriate in this new world."
The new Wings network will carry programming covering
topics ranging from the beginning of aviation to the latest in space travel, according to
Discovery officials. Its lineup will include shows dealing with airplanes, helicopters,
gliders, rockets, satellites, telescopes, shuttles and space stations.