Discovery Communications Buys HowStuffWorks for $250M

Discovery Communications said it will buy information-based Web site HowStuffWorks for $250 million.

The company plans to use the Wikipedia competitor to increase its online reach, now largely limited to Web sites created in-house to mirror its stable of cable networks. HowStuffWorks reaches some 3.8 million unique users each month, according to comScore Media Metrix.

Discovery will add its short-form video to HowStuffWorks' text-based pages. The site positions itself as a competitor to online encyclopedia Wikipedia. Unlike that site, which enables consumers to add content to posts, HowStuffWorks' content is created and vetted by an editorial team.

Adding the Atlanta-based company, which employs about 160, to its portfolio of digital assets is an effort to aggregate more consumers for Discovery's online content. Over the past year, Discovery has been buying up smaller Web sites to bolster those it has launched in-house.

The company paid some $35 million to buy animal-focused Web destination last November to align it with its Animal Planet cable channel, and it bought eco-lifestyle Web site in August as a companion for upcoming environmental channel Planet Green.

Strengthening Discovery's digital strategy has been a self-professed goal of CEO David Zaslav since he started in the position in January. The company plans to increase science and technology programming on its flagship Discovery Channel to yield content that can be easily excerpted into short video clips. That includes a new show called How Stuff Works, which will run daily beginning in 2008 and focus on nature, man-made things and technology.

Discovery said it expects to close the deal in the fourth quarter and its impact on operating cash flow in year one will be immaterial. As part of the purchase, Discovery will also acquire several other digital assets, including ratings/review site Consumer Guide, online-map supplier GeoNova Group and medical-education business QuickCompliance.