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Discovery's digital world

Discovery's diverse digital networks were created to attract a wide audience, as well as to serve enthusiasts of specialized interests. In doing so, the network believes, it is helping to increase the appeal of digital cable among viewers.

In keeping with its Explore your World theme, Discovery Digital Networks' goal is to create programming that can appeal to almost anyone in a household with its Family Pack of programming.

"There is something for everyone in the household, so it has more appeal," says Charley Humbard, senior vice president and general manager for Discovery Digital Networks. "This helps operators sell digital cable into these homes."

Discovery Digital Networks' biggest network is Discovery Science Channel, designed to allow its 10 million subscribers to explore scientific advances. Discovery Kids Channel, with 7 million subscribers, provides educational programming for children 2 to 14. Discovery Wings Channel gives its 5.5 million subscribers an in-depth look at the innovations and history of aviation. Discovery Civilization Channel, which also has about 5.5 million subscribers, explores the evolution of mankind and social issues. Discovery Home & Leisure Channel also has about 5.5 subscribers. Discovery en Español gives its 1 million subscribers an array of nonfiction programming appealing to Latin American viewers.

Discovery believes the channels give its audience new perspectives on important issues and events. Humbard says the networks are being used to bring multiple perspectives to events as they happen.

For example, Discovery is already planning programming for the 60th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor bombing with shows that will air on various channels, including the Civilization Channel and Discover Wings Channel.

Discovery is producing a show for the Science Channel that will look at the technologies used in warfare during World War II. Discovery Civilization will tell stories of the war and the bombing from the perspective of the survivors and those who were involved. The Wings Channel will take a look at the military tactics and aircraft behind the bombing.

"Each of these brands brings greater coverage," says Humbard. "It's been very effective for viewers in understanding more about these events. All of these channels bring their own unique value."

And that's the message Discovery has been conveying to advertisers as it began to sell the individual networks this year. It has added some additional sales people to handle just the digital channels. In addition, some sales staffs that handle its analog channels also sell airtime on the digital channels.

"This is our digital magazine rack," Humbard says. "This year we are starting to hit our numbers for distribution. Our brands are appealing to advertisers."

Although the digital channels are still new, Humbard says advertisers are responding positively. "So far its up to our expectation. It's a learning curve for advertisers." Digital cable, "in their minds, is still an emerging medium, although going forward, it's going to be a very important part of their future."

Humbard says it's no mystery why advertisers have been responding so positively to Discovery. Discovery Digital Networks ranked No. 1 in Beta Research's 1999 Cable Subscriber Study Among Emerging Networks with participants age 18-49, and it ranked No. 1 in the ad-supported emerging-networks category among cable subscribers interested in getting a satellite dish. The Beta survey is based on a random national sample of 903 digital cable subscribers age 18 and older. In addition, Discovery Digital Networks ranked No. 1 among digital networks in the 1999 Cable Operator Study on Channel Carriage by Beta Research.

"The real growth here is in supporting operators," Humbard says of the advanced features. "What we want to do is to grow their business with interactive digital set-tops." These services have "huge appeal to the consumers, and it's a huge step in home entertainment."