Planet Green's Scheduling Challenge

New Eco-Themed Channel Aims to Draw Disparate Audiences to Emeril, Ludacris
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When Discovery Communications’ Planet Green launches Wednesday at 6 p.m. (EST), the new eco-themed channel will kick off with a veritable cornucopia of original programming from such marquee names as Adrian Grenier, Emeril Lagasse and Leonardo DiCaprio.

But while a green theme runs through the channel’s slate of programs, the range of genres has challenged Discovery to find a way to draw audiences to Emeril Green, as well as Battlefield Earth: Ludacris vs. Tommy Lee.

“Is this the easiest scheduling challenge for our head scheduler? No, but there are some obvious themes because we are built on a lifestyle platform,” said Eileen O’Neill, president and general manager of Planet Green. (Click here to watch a video Q&A with O'Neill.)

The network took a scheduling strategy out of the playbook of other Discovery channels -- including TLC, Discovery Health (which O’Neill ran before heading Planet Green) and the flagship Discovery Channel -- by scheduling nights with common themes, appealing to similar demos.

“Thursday nights are kind of our Hollywood night, so we have Hollywood Green with Maria Menounos, and we have Supper Club,” O’Neill said. “There might be a weekend or movie opportunity as audiences are starting to think about their weekend plans.”

“Friday,” she continued, “is very home-renovation-oriented. A tentpole there would be Renovation Nation. A lot of people are figuring out what their weekend-warrior plans are from that -- fix-it, do-it-yourself situations."

Since announcing the rebrand in April 2007, the network has slowly taken shape, locking up celebrities such as Grenier, DiCaprio and even shock humorist Tom Green to star in or produce programming.

Now, with its launch lineup set, Discovery is banking on its original-programming slate and the 50 million subscribers it is inheriting from Discovery Home Channel to bring in the green for the new network.

Outside of primetime, O’Neill saidthe network plans to rely on its original programming as much as possible.

“There is really no filler content. The schedule is really robust with plus 250 hours, the vast majority originally produced. One acquisition was the Ed Begley series, and then we certainly have a few one-ups and miniseries from our sister networks, but there aren’t as many of those as you might imagine,” O’Neill added.

Although the upfronts only just concluded and the network has yet to debut, O’Neill said advertisers have been receptive to the network, evidenced by a deal with General Motors to sponsor Greensburg and a deal with Whole Foods on Emeril Green.

“There is a lot of excitement to it. We really got our debut in the upfronts in the last month or two, and the upfront is just starting to heat up in the next week or two. The reception has been strong from both the ‘green’ market and the more mainstream market,” O’Neill said.

Discovery is hedging its bet that climate change is an issue that will continue to resonate with viewers in the years ahead and that Planet Green will be seen as a part of the solution.

“This is such a big issue for the world -- climate change and the repercussions of it. This is a big investment by Discovery Communications against a big problem,” O’Neill said. “We hope that we can be part of a growing solution based movement here. This is a long road, a long journey, and we’re committed.”

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