Animal Planet on hunt for younger audiences

Cabler to launch new shows and programming blocks

Animal Planet hopes its 2005-06 lineup will lure hipper viewers into joining its safari.

At the cabler’s Gotham upfront preview, exec veep-general manager Maureen Smith expressed channel’s desire to attract new, younger viewers without alienating existing ones. To that end, Animal Planet will launch a number of new shows and create three new programming blocks.

Starting in August, cabler will launch the Simple Pleasures daytime block with half-hour series “Doga” and “Backyard Habitat.” “Doga” focuses on Kari Harendorf and her dog, Charlie, who teach yoga to other dogs and their owners out of Harendorf’s East Village yoga studio.

Sunday and Wednesday nights will become branded nights. “Whoa! Sunday,” a two-hour block launching March 27 and hosted by ubiquitous hipster funnyman Mo Rocca, will feature the channel’s specials, including preems of “Dragons: A Fantasy Made Real,” “After the Attack” and “Jane Goodall: When Animals Talk,” as well as re-airings of past specs.

“Wild Wednesdays,” a two-hour primetime block launching June 15, will feature skeins “Corwin’s Quest” and “Buggin’ With Ruud,” an hourlong program following bug lover Ruud Kleinpaste.

Channel will begin airing new series “Caught in the Moment” in 2006. Show follows young, attractive couple Tristan Bayer and Vanessa Garnick as they travel around the world filming animals and themselves. Show will end with a three- to five-minute recap of the episode scored to popular music — essentially a musicvideo aimed at the teen or twentysomething viewer.

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