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Discovery Launching Green Channel

Discovery is turning its Home channel into a new cable network about living green.

As part of a more than $50 million eco-focused initiative called PlanetGreen, the company will rebrand the Discovery Home Channel in 2008 as a network about how to lead an environmentally conscious life. Discovery is expected to announce PlanetGreen at its upfront presentation to advertisers in New York on Thursday.

The company is pledging to devote $50 million to new programming for the yet-unnamed network, available in about 50 million homes, as well as for online resources, like a social networking arena and Web videos, and shows for its other 13 U.S. cable networks.

Discovery is also committing to making its own Silver Spring, MD headquarters "green" by turning the building carbon-neutral, hosting a conference to showcase eco-innovations and starting an advisory board of scientists and researchers to support the program.

The earth-focused network will be headed by Eileen O'Neill, former General Manager of the Discovery Health Channel. Programming topics will likely include eco-design, organic food and "green" architecture. The company plans to partner with environmental groups, such as The Nature Conservancy and to produce some of its earth-focused programs.

Discovery's announcement comes as its flagship Discovery Channel has posted double digit year-to-year ratings gains with a return to the science and nature-focused programming upon which it built its brand. The network had strayed from that sort of programming in favor of more racy reality fare. Its current Planet Earth miniseries has drawn nearly 4 million viewers for weekly premiere episodes and lured presenting sponsors including Bank of America.

The company, like other major media conglomerates, is also aiming to capitalize on gaining public awareness of environmental issues like global warming. This year's Oscars on ABC, at which Al Gore's global warming documentary An Inconvenient Truth won an award, touted the fact that the ceremony had gone green, using earth-friendly supplies and services.

In March, Discovery competitor National Geographic acquired "The Green Guide," a Web site and newsletter about living an environmentally conscious life, and this month the Sundance Channel plans to launch earth-focused programming block, "The Green," produced by Robert Redford.

The goal in launching PlanetGreen, according to Discovery CEO David Zaslav, is "to use Discovery's worldwide credibility to be the most comprehensive and trusted global resource for celebrating, preserving and protecting the planet."

The $50 million for programming will be funneled into earth-based shows for all of Discovery's myriad U.S. cable channels. The Discovery Channel in third quarter will premiere 10 Ways to Save the Planet, a series focused on possible solutions to environmental threats, using funds from the initiative.

Web offerings will include an online forum for eco-focused chat, reports and tips on climate change and other environmental issues and original video content, like the consumer activism-focused "Go Green."

Also as part of PlanetEarth, Discovery will finance annual scientific explorations led by its new talent, wilderness educator Josh Bernstein. He and a crew of educators, students and sponsors will travel to challenged environments to raise awareness about global issues.