Discovery Communications is shelling out $370 million for 3,000 hours of original programming this year.
"Given the rough economy, many of our competitors are cutting back," John Ford, head of Discovery's content group, said at last week's New York upfront presentation. "We're going the other way."
The Discovery Channel received the lion's share, $150 million, but each of Discovery's portfolio of other networks—Animal Planet, The Learning Channel, Travel Channel, Discovery Health, Discovery Kids and five digital services—will get an injection of originals.
What you won't see on a Discovery net is racy content, even if series like MTV's The Osbournes
and FX drama The Shield
are delivering spectacular Nielsen ratings.
"Advertisers are squeamish on cable nets with controversial programming," Ford said. "The advantage of cable is there are many places to go."
Some portion of Discovery Channel's coffers will go to five new series: Hi Tech History, which investigates historical events, Building Big,
a look at how modern marvels like skyscrapers and bridges are constructed; Monster Garage; People Watch; and Surprise by Design.
Specials also slated to receive funds include Titanic
director James Cameron's expedition to the Bismarck shipwreck.
TLC continues its cult redecorating hit, Trading Spaces, with college and celebrity episodes. A companion series, While You Were Out, will launch in the fourth quarter. A sports special, Chariot Race 2002,
will re-create ancient horse-and-carriage competitions.
Animal Planet, the only family member experimenting with fictional and scripted originals, is planning six made-for-TV movies and a sitcom, Bad Dog. In September, Animal Planet will revive Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom
with six one-hour specials.
TLC also plans to explore original movie projects.
Corporate cousin BBC America (Discovery handles its ad sales and distribution) continues importing hit British comedies and dramas. Two comedies, Manchild
("London's answer to Sex and the City,"
explains COO Paul Lee) and Friends
knock-off Coupling, debut later this year.
Discovery Health plans to debut women's health talk show Berman & Berman: For Women Only
in the fourth quarter, along with Medical Profile,
which investigates diseases afflicting celebrities.