Discovery Lands on 'Earth'

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Discovery Communications took a huge leap forward in the multiplatform space, becoming the first TV network to provide video to Google Earth, and launching two new broadband sites and a mobile broadcast channel. Discovery previewed each of the new services to advertisers at its New York upfront presentation Thursday.

Starting on Thursday, the company will make short-form content from its library available to Google Earth, Google’s free, satellite-imagery based mapping product. Users can view Discovery-branded videos about national landmarks and locations. The company will keep all revenue from ads on the site and has the opportunity to add pay downloads or promote other online offerings like new pay broadband site Cosmeo on Google Earth. The video will be largely re-cut from documentaries and programs Discovery has already shot, beginning with video from 10 national parks.

The company is in talks with advertisers to exclusively sponsor the Discovery video and is thinking about sales tie-ins – books or travel arrangements, for example. Notes Discovery senior Executive VP for Strategy & Development Don Baer, “Success in this arena isn’t just about taking your long-form content and making it available in somebody else’s environment.”

Discovery will also launch broadband networks for the Discovery Channel and Travel Channel on April 15, the first in a series planned to extend to several other channels in its cable portfolio. The free, ad-supported sites – Discovery Channel Beyond and Travel Channel Beyond – are enabled by Internet TV service Brightcove and will be available from the main Discovery site.

They will include sections for previews and extensions of on-air programming, video blogs (vlogs) from talent, and user-generated content. One area will let users create and post their own documentaries by mixing Discovery footage with their own narration. A daily newscast is planned for the future. All content will likely in some way tie in programming on the linear networks.

“A lot of this has to do with the extension of the advertising revenue for us,” says Baer. “We are seeing very much that there are additive dollars to this. It’s not just a zero-sum proposition.”

Finally, the company will offer a 24-hour broadcast mobile network, Discovery Mobile, in the third quarter of 2006. Targeting a 15-39 audience, the channel will be programmed with science- and nature-themed content specifically packaged for cellphones, rather than just broadcasting the individual TV networks. Content will available in a two-hour loop, refreshed weekly. Individual segments vary in length from 30-seconds to four minutes and are grouped into 20-minute chunks.

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