Dr. Spock birthing an empire

Pediatrician branding planned for TV, books, Web

Dr. Spock is back — and this isn’t “Star Trek.”

The famed pediatrician Benjamin Spock, whose 1946 tome “Baby and Child Care” may be the bestselling book after the Bible, has a new company named after him. It’s moving into TV, publishing and the Internet in an effort to dominate the parenting niche, much like Martha Stewart seemed to corner the market on house and home.

Spock died in 1998 at age 94. His wife, Mary Morgan, is building the Dr. Spock Co. with an initial cash infusion of $10.8 million and investors led by the Zesiger Capital Group and CNC Partners. Its first documentary aired on the Discovery Channel in February. This Wednesday, the company will announce partnerships with Viacom’s Simon & Schuster and AOL Time Warner.

“We want to put a full media business strategy behind the brand of Ben Spock,” said CEO Doug Lee Friday. ABC’s longtime chief medical correspondent George Strait and former editor-in-chief of Parenting magazine David Marcus are on board.

The book deal, with Spock’s original publisher Pocket Books, calls for three titles this summer — “Dr. Spock’s The First Two Years,” “Dr. Spock’s The School Years” and “Dr. Spock on Parenting” — plus tie-ins with Web content and TV programming.

A new generation

AOL Time Warner has agreed to deliver Spock info to AOL and CompuServe subscribers through their parenting and health channels. The huge Internet provider AOL is one way Lee sees the company extending its brand from baby boomers who know the material to younger generations. Spock’s flagship book still sells briskly, he noted, and is frequently updated with the latest research.

The Martha Stewart analogy does break down in one respect, however: She’s still alive. But Lee said he’s convinced that in this case it’s possible to “separate the personality of the individual from the branding of what they represented.”