Conglom will pour $2.5 bil into shows across 13 networks

NEW YORK — Discovery Networks is rediscovering original programming.

Conglom, which made its upfront presentation to advertisers Tuesday at the American Museum of Natural History, said it would pour $2.5 billion into original programming across its 13 networks. Number of original programming hours is nearly double that of last year.

New lineup was unveiled on museum’s Imax screen — appropriate for the larger than life, two-hour presentation.

William Campbell, prexy of Discovery Networks, and Joseph Abruzzese, Discovery Networks’ prexy of ad sales, announced sked highlights during the presentation, which fell on same evening as the launch of Discovery Times Channel (Daily Variety, March 25).

  • On Discovery Channel, new shows are “Monster House,” following the same principles as hit series “Monster Garage” — in “House,” builders take over a family residence and make mechanized improvements; a beauty series from makeup maven Bobbie Brown, who will share her philosophy; and specials including “Dinosaur Planet,” which takes a “CSI”-style look at prehistory. Returning are “Monster Garage,” “Quest” and “Spotlight” expeditions and the hugely popular “Shark Week.”

  • TLC spotlighted spinoffs of “Trading Spaces” — “$100,000 Challenge” in which the budget and ante is raised, and tournament-style design competition “Win a House.” Special series “Spy Masters” will follow recruits as they participate in secret agent training, while “Industrial Wonders” will look at the Hoover Dam and Panama Canal, among other great building projects.

  • On Animal Planet, famed primate scientist Jane Goodall will join the net in a series of specials over the next few years; “Miami Animal Vice” goes inside the animal control department of the beach city; and “Animal Camera” takes a look at the natural world from a critter’s perspective; returning series include “The Crocodile Hunter,” “The Jeff Corwin Experience” and “Pet Psychic.” “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” specials will also pepper the slate in 2003-04.

  • Travel Channel hopes to repeat its “Road Trip” success with celeb-hosted “Movie Lover’s Road Trip” (Kevin Pollak) and “Haunted Road Trip” (Jamie-Lynn Sigler). “Cheers” alum John Ratzenberger will front “Made in America,” a cross-country trip that looks at famous icons.

  • On high-definition net Discovery HD, “Atlas HD” is touted as offering the most complete record of the planet Earth ever created. Net will spend $60 million in five years to create a television journal of Earth. First subject will be India.

Discovery Networks also touted the success of BBC America, which it distributes. Net is up 57% among adults 18-49 in primetime.

This summer, Discovery will launch a campaign created by BaylessCronin, which did the promos for ESPN’s “Sports Center.” Taglines are “Explore. Discover. Understand” and “Entertain Your Brain.”

With war ongoing, ad sales prexy Abruzzese could not predict the worth of the upfront. In a post-presentation Q&A, he said if the war ended in a month, upfront result would be “pretty strong,” as “clients are ready to move money to cable.”

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