There has been a flurry of launch activity over at Silver Spring, U.S.-based Discovery Networks, including a new U.S. cable channel, a foothold in Africa and in-roads into Germany.
Discovery is transforming its 2001 acquisition of Fox Cable Networks Group channel The Health Network into FitTV, a new cable network that will focus on exercise. ‘From my point of view, The Heath Network included a lot of things that overlapped with [cable channel] Discovery Health, [whereas] FitTV is going to be exercise and fitness all the time,’ explains Carole Tomko, FitTV’s newly appointed GM. Tomko moves over to FitTV from Animal Planet, where she was VP of production and development.
Comparing FitTV and Animal Planet, Tomko says, ‘I have to capture the audience’s attention in both jobs – whether it’s to bring them to a Jeff Corwin series or to the latest fitness trend.’ FitTV is being touted as a ‘companion network’ to the Discovery Health Channel, which will continue to focus more on reality-based, personal stories. ‘FitTV is going to be more instructional in nature,’ says Tomko. The new channel is set to launch in January 2004.
In other parts of the world, Animal Planet is three steps closer to living up to its name – AP will soon be available in Hong Kong, 42 African countries and Germany.
Discovery Networks Asia signed an agreement with Hong Kong Cable Television, acquiring basic carriage for Animal Planet and Discovery Travel & Adventure as of October, with Discovery Health, Science and Home & Leisure to appear later in the year. Discovery Networks Europe announced that the channel will be carried on platform operator Multichoice’s South African and pan-African feeds starting in 2004. No new programming will be commissioned specifically for the African channels, although a spokesperson for Discovery points out that the channel shows programs that originate in Africa (e.g., Mad Mike and Mark, which features South African wildlife photographers and safari guides Mike Penman and Mark Tennant). Lastly, Animal Planet will join the Discovery Channel in the German market in April 2004.