Animal Planet in hunt for program partners


Discovery Networks U.S.' Animal Planet has appointed a sales executive dedicated
solely to tracking down more program partnerships like its recently signed
Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom.

Bill Graff -- who, as the network's vice president of programming, was
"instrumental in creating the Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom partnership" -- has
been named VP of program partnerships and will pursue more
revenue-generating opportunities in conjunction with the Discovery Networks
ad-sales force, according to Animal Planet executive VP and general
manager Michael Cascio.

"Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom is the most visible" of these partnerships,
Cascio said, but there have been others involving American Suzuki Motor Corp.
(its multifaceted package deal included conservation-themed interstitials);
Paper Mate (a similarly multifaceted package, called "Wild About Writing" and
featuring Jeff Corwin of The Jeff Corwin Experience); and Procter & Gamble
Co.'s Iams Co., which backs the Eukanuba Tournament of Champions dog shows.

"Every deal is different," Cascio observed. Some, like those with P&G and
Mutual of Omaha, came with the sponsors attached, while others, like Suzuki,
were matched with appropriate content.

In addition, there have been partnerships with movie studios for such titles
as Snow Dogs, Ice Age and Lilo and Stitch, he said, adding,
"Graff instituted the majority of these deals."

As for Wild Kingdom, a deal announced in April, he described it as "a
natural combination of sponsor and network. It's truly a partnership, beneficial
to everybody, including the viewers."

To the originally announced six-special package, Mutual has added a Wild
Kingdom "40th anniversary retrospective," due in January.

Animal Planet's expanded partnership strategy matches one of the stated
objectives of Discovery Networks' new president of ad sales, Joe Abruzzese, the
former sales boss at CBS. "One of his priorities is to build partnerships,"
Cascio said. "This is right in line with his list of priorities."