Animal Planet Acquires More Pets

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Aiming to get a bigger piece of the burgeoning pet industry, Discovery's Animal Planet has acquired two pet-focused businesses, Petfinder.com and PetsIncredible. The company paid about $35 million for the two combined, according to executives familiar with the matter.

Petfinder.com, which works with animal shelters and rescue groups to facilitate pet adoption, and PetsIncredible, which produces and distributes pet-training videos and operates a Web service, and PetVideo.com already had a working relationship. Now Animal Planet will fold them under its umbrella, making the network not just a producer of pet programming but a player in the overall pet industry.

And it's a big industry. Annual U.S. pet spending for 2006 is expected to reach 38.4 billion, up from just $17 billion in 1994, according to the American Pet Products Manufacturing Association. Some 63% of U.S. households own pets -- that's 69.1 million homes.

Correspondingly, the network has formed "Animal Planet Media Enterprises," a business that will include the Animal Planet TV network, the network's website AnimalPlanet.com and its broadband site Animal Planet Beyond, the two new sites, and various other multimedia ventures.

Maureen Smith, Executive Vice President/GM, Animal Planet, will expand her duties to lead Animal Planet Media Enterprises. “It’s a huge market," she told B&C, "and it just made so much sense that Animal Planet being the number one place for content about wild and domestic animals to get in there in a big way.”

Animal Planet will look to make new acquisitions to expand the network’s presence into “all the touch points in people’s lives,” she said. For example, the network is planning “Ask the Vet” segments on its Website and will publish a line of pet care books. Other possible extensions could put the network into the expanding pet travel or fashion industries.

Animal will promote its new acquisitions on TV, as well as use the sites to drive viewers to the network and its website. As of today, Petfinder.com is displaying copy saying the site has been “adopted” by Animal Planet, but Smith says network branding will not overtake the site.

Animal Planet's Oct. audience was up 17% over last year to an average 600,000 total viewers in prime.

Petfinder.com averaged about 1.6 billion page viewers last year and about 7 million unique visitors in the past month, according to online traffic tracker Urchin.

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