DiCaprio series, eco-consumer programming to anchor new venture

Though they can lord over their schedules with impunity, broadcasters’ fates are inextricably tied to that of their subjects. The NHL strike was bad news for ESPN, and a sudden trend toward celebrity sobriety would deal a crushing blow to E!. So what if your programming bread and butter is the rapidly depleting natural world?

If you’re the Discovery Channel, you jump right into the fray. The cabler recently announced plans to launch Planet Green, a 24-hour environmental consumer channel, in late 2008.

“You always hope to be an early adopter, and obviously there’s a need this channel is addressing,” says Eileen O’Neill, Planet Green president and general manager. “I think that, in terms of being relevant and impactful, the time is just right now.”

O’Neill says the channel will cover a wide swath of the eco milieu – from architecture to fashion, technology and dining – targeting what she calls the “conscious consumer.”

Attracting the most attention is “Eco-Town,” produced alongside Leonardo DiCaprio and Craig Piligian. The series will record efforts to sustainably rebuild Greensburg, the Kansas town decimated by a tornado last spring.

“We do think this is a really strong television opportunity, along with an opportunity to make a difference,” O’Neill says of the show. “Not only for this town, but also to showcase what green technology can do for everyone’s environment.”

Appropriately, Discovery’s headquarters are going carbon-neutral as well. With luck, the cabler’s efforts will help to ensure “Shark Weeks” for years to come.

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