Discovery gets behind U.K. channel

Digital service to launch untitled channel

Discovery will launch its first channel on the U.K.’s most popular digital TV platform, Freeview.

Details of the channel’s unique selling point are at this stage sketchy, but in common with Discovery’s DMAX channel, which made its debut as a free-to-air offering in Germany, the upstart web will not be branded as a Discovery entity.

“We will be announcing the channel’s name nearer to the launch date, which will be early in 2009,” said Dan Brooke, managing director of Discovery Networks U.K.

Discovery, which operates 11 pay channels in Blighty, has bought the Freeview slot from ITV subsidiary SDN in a competitive auction for an undisclosed sum. There is speculation that the outfit will have to fork out as much as £10 million ($17 million) a year for the privilege of being available on Freeview.

Brooke said the new web’s schedule would be based on the Discovery library encompassing history, factual, lifestyle and entertainment, alongside third-party acquisitions, but declined to say precisely which demographic it would be aimed at.

The development was announced at a London media breakfast Thursday hosted by Discovery and attended by top brass, including Discovery Communications prexy and CEO David Zaslav and chief operating officer Mark Hollinger, plus London topper Brooke.

Asked if launching an advertising-funded channel in the face of an economic slowdown made sense, Brooke said he hoped that having a free channel and the opportunity for cross promotion would strengthen the company’s pay business in the U.K.

In any case, indicated Zaslav, Discovery’s twin revenue streams of subscription coin and advertising money, gave his business a “sturdiness” that should help it to ride out the present economic difficulties.