In hopes of boosting subs for its ailing German service, Discovery Communications has signed a programming and coproduction agreement with ZDF Enterprises, which includes the creation of a Discovery Channel programming block to air on zdf as of October, Monday to Thursday from 2:15 to 3:00 p.m. at the onset.
The block is to be programmed by zdf, which will have the entire dci library at its disposal. Throughout the term of the deal, zdf will acquire a total of 130 hours from dci.
Alexander Coridass, president of ZDF Enterprises, says the terrestrial broadcaster’s policy does not count German digital channels (i.e. Discovery Germany) as competition at the moment. That, however, will likely change if the branded block succeeds in driving a significant number of subs towards the digital service. (Joked Coridass: ‘We hope to get a dollar for every new Discovery Germany subscriber.’) Coridass says the terms of the agreement are at least two years.
As for the rest of the deal, Discovery will purchase 100 hours of programming a year from zdf for both its German digital pay service and international services, and the two companies have agreed to coproduce 15 hours of doc product a year. The coproduced product will be initiated by zdf, with the German broadcaster having final editorial control. For its contribution, Discovery gets exclusive pay-tv rights for Discovery Channel worldwide.
As for first window on coproduced product, Discovery Networks International president, Don Wear, says broadcast rights will be negotiated on a ‘project by project basis.’
Discovery was on a roll at miptv last month, making a whole slate of announcements. Looking to extend its brand into radio, dci is teaming up with London-based World Sport Broadcasting, a division of Television Corporation, to create and distribute Discovery Channel Radio, a half-hour, English-language weekly syndicated radio anthology. Advertiser-supported, and in the black from the get-go, Discovery will exploit unused space on its transponders for distribution. Wear says the radio venture will ‘allow [Discovery] to do things we can’t do on tv.’ Content will include on-location reports, profiles and features.
Also in Cannes, Discovery Channel U.S. senior vp and gm Mike Quattrone announced a production deal with Liechtenstein-based Underwater Archeology and Discovery and its partner, French marine explorer Franck Goddio.
Discovery will hold worldwide media, intellectual property, merchandising and licensing rights to the uad excavations in which it participates. The result will be an undetermined number of specials in the vein of Titanic, Discovery’s ratings champion last year.
The first joint expedition, starting this month, will have Goddio return to Egypt, where he discovered the lost city of Alexandria in 1996. Additional sites have not yet been announced.
The first program to be produced under the agreement is tentatively scheduled for delivery in early 1999, and will be executive produced by Maurice Paleau from Discovery and Jane Armstrong from Toronto-based CineNova.
Also being discussed at miptv was Discovery Wings Channel: The Sky & Space Network, the latest service to be added to the multi-network package Discovery is offering u.s. cable operators.
No launch date is set for Wings, an offshoot of Discovery’s long-running aviation series of the same name, and Discovery says it will be offered to operators for either analog or digital distribution. Programming will consist of repackaged material from the Discovery library alongside some original product.
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