Times Buys Civilization Stake


The New York Times Co. last Friday said it would buy half-ownership in Discovery Communications Inc.'s Discovery Civilization Channel for $100 million in cash, potentially buttressing its programming and expanding its reach by leveraging cross-promotional opportunities.

The companies also agreed to a five-year, $40-million output deal between DCI and The Times Co.'s TV-production unit. The diginet, which launched in 1996, counts some 14 million subscribers. DCI will continue to manage it.

DCI executive vice president of strategy and development Don Baer cited The Times Co.'s interest in expanding its position in television, as well as both companies' joint production of such series as The Learning Channel's Trauma: Life in the ER
and other shows on Discovery Channel and Discovery Health Channel.

The Times Co. owns 15 percent of Ovation – The Arts Network.

The partnership's first on-air manifestation should occur this summer, when editors from The New York Times
introduce and close current Civilization fare, Baer said.

Although Civilization will benefit from promotion ads in the Times
and on Discovery, a Times Co. spokeswoman said the agreement does not immediately afford the parties the rights to cross-sell advertising.

The Times Co. also produces programming that has been shown on public-TV stations, Showtime, National Geographic Channel and A&E Network. Some of those deals are long-term contracts; others are on a project-to-project basis.

Over time, sources said, DCI networks will become the primary U.S. distributor for Times TV fare, though a spokeswoman said the Times Co. maintains the right to work with other partners on TV-news projects.

Baer said The Times Co. would produce documentary and information programming for Civilization. More mature networks — such as Discovery Channel and TLC — will air "bigger projects with larger budgets first." Those projects could later find a window on Discovery Civilization, which could also receive some dedicated fare at a later time.