Discovery Testing Video Encyclopedia


Discovery Communications Inc. is getting into the encyclopedia business. Only it's not going to sell hard-bound books door to door.

Instead, it will deliver video clips via the Internet into homes and surround them with brain games and educational aids.

The $2.4 billion programmer, whose network stable includes Discovery Channel, TLC, Travel Channel and Animal Planet, some time in the first quarter plans to launch a $99-per-year subscription service called Discovery Learning Connection. Aimed at students — high school and below — the service will include articles, quizzes and search tools, as well as tens of thousands of video segments.

Discovery is trying to create “the ultimate video encyclopedic resource for the home,” said Steve Sidel, its executive vice president for education.

The service, featuring tens of thousands of video clips on subjects from science to math to history, also will include tools to help students do their homework, games to push their intellect, pre-vetted links to reliable Internet information sources, educational events and “a whole host of things to help students,” said Sidel.

Discovery made a test version of the service available to users of Windows personal computers this fall at Its video programs are drawn from more than 45,000 clips already provided to teachers at 70,000 schools nationwide, in an on-demand service known as Unitedstreaming.

From their computers, students soon will be able to search for clips based on such keywords as “Rome” or “Roman history.” They will also be able to narrow their searches by designating their grade and state: The system will then only present clips that match appropriate educational guidelines.

“The way that students are learning has been dramatically affected by the advent of the Internet and broadband,'' said Sidel. “Video is a very compelling way to deliver information.''

Sidel claimed that studies have shown school students receiving video-infused lessons have retained 12.6% more knowledge than control groups. “It makes them excited about studying,'' he says.

Discovery will be seeking partners, including cable, satellite, computer, software suppliers and mobile-device companies, to market the video-age encyclopedic resource, which could be sold as part of a bundle of services or as a discount add-on.

If it gains traction, the Connection could be a $1 billion opportunity for Discovery. Each 1 million subscribers represent almost $100 million in revenue, according to Sidel. “It's very compelling,” he said.

Also compelling is the price. The 32-volume Encyclopaedia Britannica, with 65,000 articles, costs $995 — on sale.

But Sidel said the Connection can't really be considered an encyclopedia, because of its myriad learning tools. Whereas an encyclopedia can only answer a specific question, this service can help teach a student how to think.

The service was quietly launched on Oct. 12, a date honoring Christopher Columbus as the discoverer of America — even though, as students might learn, that is probably not historically accurate.