Discovery Buys Wings Rival
Discovery Communications Inc. has bought out the company
that at one point launched an aviation cable channel competing with DCI's own digital
network in that genre, Discovery Wings Channel, officials said last week.
Discovery Wings LLC, a DCI subsidiary, has acquired Network
USA Inc., which created the original Wings aviation series for Discovery Channel
about 12 years ago. Network USA is the world's largest producer and archivist of
aviation, military and aerospace-related programming. Discovery would not disclose the
As part of the sale, Discovery will get more than 250 hours
of new completed programs, in addition to Network USA's 3,000-hour library.
"This library is the premiere library," said
Clark Bunting, Discovery's senior vice president of new-network ventures, U.S.
"Nowhere in the world is there a better aviation library. They put it together over
the past 12 years."
Last spring, Network USA launched a network called
Wingspan: Air & Space Channel, which was to compete directly with Discovery Wings.
But Wingspan had very limited carriage -- on Media General
Cable in Fairfax County, Va., and Multimedia Cablevision Inc. in Wichita, Kan. It
eventually went dark, reportedly sometime this year.
Network USA president Phillip Osborn and Walter Boyne,
former director of the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum, will act as consultants for
Discovery and its Wings channel. Both men were also executives of Wingspan.
"They will have a fairly substantial voice [in
Wings]," Bunting said, adding that Osborn "invented the aviation genre."
Network USA's in-house production staff will be
incorporated into the staff of Discovery Wings to produce world-premiere programs for
Wings and Discovery Networks International.
Osborn couldn't be reached for comment last week.
In a prepared statement, DCI president Judith McHale said,
"This purchase of Network USA and its assets offers a tremendous opportunity to
further strengthen Discovery Wings Channel, as well as our international networks, with a
substantial infusion of in-depth programming that will truly allow Discovery to be the No.
1 source for the most complete aviation, aerospace and military programming."
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By Kent Gibbons