Science Net Drops Discovery Name

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Discovery Science Channel will relaunch on Monday (April 1) with a new on-air look and logo as well as a new name: The Science Channel.

The made-over network will also "cycle in" a greater percentage of original programming this fall and into the first quarter of 2003. "Theme nights" will also be instituted.

The transformation — which will rely on "energetic" on-air graphics or tune-in spots — is "reflective of feeling the network is the definitive source for science programming," Discovery Digital Networks senior vice president and general manager David Karp said last Wednesday. "This is an opportunity to seize that category."

The changes were the subject of "six to eight months" of internal discussion, after which consumer research and logo development began, said Discovery Networks U.S. content group president John Ford.

"We've taken a very methodical approach," he said.

There's precedent for the change, Ford noted. Animal Planet launched as Discovery Animal Planet, but "there was no added value once [the spinoff] reached a certain cycle of life."

As with Animal Planet, "the Discovery name has done its job with the Science Channel," he said.

Science — one of the most-penetrated diginets — is now in 15 million cable homes, he said.

Although The Science Channel will definitely boost its original programming slate, executives said they couldn't estimate the percentage of originals now on the air — or on tap for this fall and winter.

Themed nights will focus on such fields as "the living world, space and cosmic dimensions, and the world of research and bio-science engineering," Karp said.

Specific programming for the "Living World" block will include Science of the Deep. That series — drawing from the programmer's relationship with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution — will explore marine animal and plant life as well as sunken vessels, according to Karp.

Science has already committed to two more original series due late this year or early next, Cosmic Odyssey
and The Skeptical Edge, executives said.

The former, hosted by William Shatner (Star Trek), will focus on astronomy, while Edge, hosted by William B. Davis (The X-Files), will use science to expose or explain common myths and mysteries, they said.

Science's makeover will be followed by a more aggressive ad-sales effort for the diginet, said Ford. The rechristening "implies ownership of the field," which should inspire advertiser interest beyond the network's sales within Discovery's digital and analog/digital sales packages, he said.

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