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Digital duo delivers

Times Discovery triples programming

This article was corrected at 7:50 p.m.

NEW YORK — The Times Discovery Channel, a joint venture of the Discovery Channel and the New York Times, has tripled its programming for the second half of the year from eight to 25 original shows, solidifying its position as Discovery Networks’ most prized, and best endowed, digital entity.

That honor is due to the backing of the Gray Lady, which last year paid Discovery Communications $100 million for a half-stake in the net.

The partnership resulted in programming expenses leaping from $1.4 million in 2001 to $12.5 million in 2002, according to Kagan World Media. Those numbers are continuing to grow. The net’s programming is costing $15 million this year and an estimated $20 million in 2004.

By comparison, programming expenses for the Discovery Kids Channel is $10 million this year, while Discovery Wings spends $5 million.

“Because the partnership with the New York Times is so strong, the economic investment allows it to be much greater (than Discovery’s other digital nets) at this point,” said Bill Goodwyn, executive VP of sales and marketing for Discovery Networks.

The investment does pay off for the other channels, however, because the nets are packaged together. “You get them all, whether it’s a cable or satellite system,” Goodwyn said.

The power of the Times brand also is paying off in eyeballs. The Discovery Times Channel is in almost 30 million homes, compared with 14 million a year ago.

As for the new slate of programming, shows are true to Discovery’s rep for A1 sober journalism. “Raising the Flag” examines postwar occupations; “After Saddam” is a closeup of present-day Iraq; and “The Hajj” covers the ritualistic Islamic pilgrimage.

“Our aim hasn’t shifted at all,” said Vivian Schiller, senior VP and general manager for the Discovery Times Channel, referring to last season’s Iraq- and Sept. 11-focused fare. “Our programs represent what our core mission is. What this represents is just an increased output.”

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