Net to launch investigative documentaries

Animal Planet is launching a quarterly series of investigative documentaries, beginning with a January special on dogfighting.

Cabler decided to create the “Animal Planet Investigates” banner following the success it had with “Animal Witness: The Michael Vick Case” in 2008.

The Vick special gave Animal Planet its most-watched telecast of the year among adults 25-54 (616,000 viewers.) Another investigation-minded special, this April’s “Puppy Mills Exposed,” also did well for the net.

“We thought the Michael Vick special would do well, but we were blown away by how well it did out of the gate,” said Animal Planet president-g.m. Marjorie Kaplan. “We looked at those, as well as the success of something like ‘Whale Wars,’ and were moved the the passion our audience has for these kind of things. Rather than do them on an adhoc basis, we decided to curate a series of specials.”

Animal Planet plans to announce the “Animal Planet Investigates” programming strand on Thursday, during its portion of Discovery’s TV Critics Assn. press tour presentation.

Kaplan said the channel hopes to eventually increase the frequency beyond just quarterly.

First up, “Dogfighting: An Animal Investigates Special,” from producer Anglia (a division of ITV Studios), will bow in January.

Future editions will look at issues such as animal testing, the exotic pet trade, gang dogs, cloning and slaughterhouses. Other producers already involved include Teale-Edwards/Working Dog Productions (“Death on a Factory”).

“We’re casting a wide net, and looking to both acquire and produce content in this space,” Kaplan said. “We’re comfortable with controversy. We want to be in the conversation. It’s the controversy that makes these stories interesting.”

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