U.S. cabler the Discovery Channel is planning to spend $ 200 million on original documentary production over the next four years, double its current level of investment, according to chairman and chief executive John Hendricks.

This is part of Hendricks’ strategy for the development of Discovery as a worldwide network, with its own channels in Europe, Asia and Latin America as well as the United States.

Discovery brand

These channels will be built around original programming made under the Discovery brand. In the past two years, it has invested $ 50 million in its own programs. Hendricks is hoping to establish Discovery as one of the major names in documentary production for international audiences.

“The key is to make your own programs, and make them for the worldwide market ,” said Hendricks. “We will have the world’s best documentary library by the year 2000, all projects with a long shelf-life.”

He also believes that the growth of video sell-through and pay-per-view will provide increasingly lucrative returns for owners of high-quality documentary programming, such as the $ 1.7 million special “In the Company of Whales,” broadcast by Discovery last year.

Last week, the company announced a deal for a regular slot on Japan’s Eisei Channel, which will broadcast 15 hours of Discovery programming every week. The pact was negotiated via Mitsubishi Corp., Discovery’s agent for cable distribution in Japan.

Hendricks is hoping this deal will pave the way for the launch of a full Discovery Asia channel by the end of this year, either on the Palapa direct-broadcast satellite, or on Asiasat alongside Hong Kong’s Star TV.

The company already owns Discovery Europe, which is currently available only on cable in the United Kingdom and Scandinavia.

The channel will launch on the Astra direct-broadcast satellite in July, giving it immediate access to another 2.5 million British homes.

Euro expansion

Negotiations are under way to take the service into other European countries, either by adding a local language soundtrack or, in the case of larger territories such as France and Germany, by creating a new version of the channel with local partners such as France’s Canal Plus.

“We are looking at ways of forming partnerships in other European territories , hopefully by the end of 1993,” said Hendricks.

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