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Discovery to Switch Fit and Health Channel to Discovery Life in January

It’s flipping time again at Discovery Communications. After transforming networks like Discovery Times into Investigation Discovery and Planet Green into Destination America, the company is set to announce Wednesday that it intends to transform Discovery Fit & Health into Discovery Life in hopes of attracting a broader audience.

Since late last year, the company has been considering how to spur growth at Fit & Health, which launched in 2011 out of network then known as FitTV. “The strategy here is to increase the appeal of a network like this,” said Henry Schleiff, the Discovery executive who oversees Life as well as American Heroes Channel, Destination America and Investigation Discovery. The company wants to secure better viewership and ad revenues while making the network more valuable to cabler and satellite operators, he said.

The network is expected to launch in January.

Executives believe a focus on life events – pregnancies, emotional moments of transition, relationships and unexpected turning points – will draw a wider crowd to the network’s offerings, said Jane Latman, who will serve as general manager of the network. “ A focus on ‘life’ vs. ‘health’ makes us more accessible, offering a compelling platform for great storytelling that chronicles the drama inherent in our everyday lives,” she said via email. “It removes a significant barrier and invites change.”

At present, Discovery Fit & Health reaches approximately 47 million homes. In contract, Schleiff said, Investigation Discovery has grown to reach about 85 million homes since the company reworked it in 2008. “We want to go from a modest success to an immense success,” he said.

The shift represents the latest of several across the cable-network landscape. A+E Networks recently transformed the old Bio network into lifestyle-focused FYI. Hallmark has unveiled plans to focus its Hallmark Movie Channel on mystery movies. And Discovery just a few months ago changed its Military Channel into the American Heroes Channel. With more traditional TV viewers sampling new digital means of consuming content, like video streaming, cable and broadcast networks find they must cast their nets wider to muster the growth advertisers and distributors say they want.

More than 10 new series and specials are in development for Discovery Life Channel, the company said. Three early efforts include “Families on the Brink,” which follows a leading relationship expert as she works to bring families grappling with problems like an addiction or an eating disorder back together; “Ripped Kids,” a series that will profile kids who compete in strength contests and the parents who try to raise them; and “Tales From the Maternity Ward,” which will spotlight true stories from the busiest delivery rooms in America.

The network is likely to focus on original programming rather than acquired, Schleiff said, though he did not rule out seeking programs from sources outside Discovery.

“We know there is a void in the TV landscape for revealing and powerful storytelling that explores moments of conflict, passions, family relationships, adversity, tragedy, and healing of life itself. These are stories of people just like you and me – relatable, moving stories of people who find themselves in extraordinary situations,” said Latman. “It’s about life’s unplanned moments – who ‘plans’ to end up in the ER? To have a child with autism? to get a divorce? Or to struggle with addiction? We don’t plan these things and yet, we all find we have to face the unexpected throughout our lives.”

Marketing behind the launch of the network is expected to ramp up in the fourth quarter.

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