In an effort to boost digital-cable penetration, Comcast
Corp.'s Comcast Cable of Southeast Michigan teamed up with Discovery Communications Inc.'s
Discovery Digital Networks earlier this month to help launch the first kids' edition of
Discovery Science Channel's interactive talk show, Science Live!
Through a partnership with the Warren Consolidated School
System, Comcast hosted the special edition of Science Live! Wednesday, Nov. 3, at a
Warren, Mich., elementary school.
Two students from the school -- who were selected through a
contest and screen test -- flew to Houston to co-anchor the show from the Johnson Space
Before the broadcast, Comcast sent the young co-anchors to
the NBC broadcast station in Detroit for media training, according to Comcast Midwest
regional vice president Michael Cleland. "The kids looked really polished, and they
had a lot of fun with this," he added.
In Houston, the young co-anchors had a chance to ask
National Aeronautics and Space Administration officials all kinds of questions and to
sample foods that astronauts eat in space. Back in Warren, fourth- and fifth-graders also
had a chance to ask questions of their own on camera via satellite, and students at other
area schools were able to send e-mail questions via Comcast's cable-modem service.
Local publicity surrounding the event helped to remind
local television viewers of the benefits of upgrading to digital, which, for local Comcast
customers, include a "Digital Bonus" of four newer Discovery Channels: Discovery
Home & Leisure, Discovery Science, Discovery Civilization and Discovery Kids.
With the help of local school systems, Comcast sent out
more than 50,000 letters to families in the area, letting them know that the programming
was available. But parents with kids involved in the event didn't have to worry if they
hadn't upgraded their cable yet, because Comcast opened up a local-origination channel for
the live, midday event, as well as for its rebroadcast later that week.
Comcast Digital Cable is available to roughly 150,000
Detroit-area customers. The local system launched digital about one year ago, Cleland
said, adding, "We've spent over $70 million to upgrade our plant locally." The
operator also has Comcast@Home's high-speed-data service available in markets where it has
launched its upgraded services.
The four Discovery digital channels are available on all of
the digital packages the system offers. Those range from a $9.95-per-month digital add-on
-- which includes access to more pay-per-view and premium-movie feeds -- to "Digital
Platinum," which sells for $66.95 and includes "everything we have,"
according to Cleland.
Not all Comcast systems across the country offer the
Discovery digital channels. Cleland said the Southeast Michigan system will also look at
the possibility of offering additional digital-basic channels a la carte.
Discovery Digital Networks offers seven channels in its
"Family Pack." In addition to the four that Comcast makes available to
Detroit-area digital-cable customers, Discovery also offers operators Discovery Wings,
Discovery People and Discovery en Español.
"There's something on the lineup for everyone in the
family," Discovery Networks U.S. senior vice president of distribution and marketing
strategy Lori McFarling said, "and all of the programming offers a safe haven for
McFarling said Discovery works closely with its affiliates
to design market-specific promotional events. "For digital, it's not an off-the-shelf
opportunity," she said. "The key to digital is the ability to be highly