Discovery Throws ‘Coming Out’ Party Emphasizing Expansion With Scripps Channels

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Discovery Inc. made a splashy presentation of an expanded programming lineup at its upfront Tuesday evening, touting the breadth of the lifestyle niches the cable group serves after acquiring the parent company of Food Network, HGTV and Travel Channel for $14.6 billion earlier this year.

Discovery president-CEO David Zaslav opened the session at Alice Tully Hall by talking up the appeal of the company’s “functional content” as good counter-programming at a time when the TV world is awash in scripted programs.

“We don’t do red carpet, we don’t do Hollywood stars,” Zaslav said. “We pretty much don’t have actors.”

Discovery’s differentiator is that its core channels are built around subjects that have natural and often passionate affinity groups. Viewers of Discovery, Animal Planet, Food Network, Science Channel and such “tune in for a curated brand that gets them.”

The core group of brands among its 19 U.S. outlets are: Discovery Channel, HGTV, Food Network, TLC, Investigation Discovery, OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network, Animal Planet, Motor Trend Network, Travel Channel, Science Channel, and DIY Network.

In making the pitch to advertisers, Discovery ad sales chief Jon Steinlauf noted that the high volume of live viewing on Discovery channels was a better fit for marketers looking for mass exposure. Some 97% of commercial ratings points are generated by live viewing with a preponderance of upscale viewers.

Steinlauf went so far as to say that “most of our shows have ‘shoppable moments’ that ignite consumer activity.”

Coinciding with the upfront, Discovery unveiled a slew of programming news across its key channels. Among the highlights:

  • Martha Stewart is joining Food Network’s long-running cooking competition series “Chopped” as a judge.
  • Discovery will launch a competition series revolving around a mystery billionaire who is challenged to launch a multi-million dollar company in 90 days with only a modest amount of seed money. “Undercover Billionaire” will end with the mogul revealing his identity and his decision to give the company to those who helped him in the launch.
  • HGTV’s hit “Property Brothers” home renovation franchise is throwing a wedding in the Italian countryside for star Drew Scott that will air on TLC (known for its wedding-centric shows) and then segue into a new HGTV series “Property Brothers at Home: Drew’s Honeymoon House.”
  • “America’s Most Wanted” veteran John Walsh is relocating to Investigation Discovery with “In Pursuit with John Walsh,” another vehicle focused on tracking down fugitives and cracking cold cases.
  • Also for Investigation Discovery, Khloe Kardashian will host “Twisted Sisters,” a look at provocative crimes committed by siblings.
  • Kate Gosselin, who became a reality star a decade ago on TLC’s “Kate Plus 8,” will be the focus of a show tracking her return to the dating world.
  • Animal Planet will serve up a docu series about the family of the late Australian adventurer Steve Irwin revolving around the conservation efforts led by his widow Terri and children Robert and Bindi.
  • Boyz II Men alum Nathan Morris drops the mic and picks up a tool belt for a home renovation challenge dubbed “Hit Properties with Nathan Morris” for DIY Network.
  • “Better Call Saul” co-star Michael McKean will host “Food: Fact or Fiction” for Cooking Channel.
  • TLC is assembling a two-hour special for next year featuring newly uncovered footage of the 1996 wedding of John Kennedy Jr. and Carolyn Bessette. “JFK Jr. and Carolyn: A Camelot Wedding” will coincide with the 20th anniversary of their death in a plane crash.

(Pictured: Martha Stewart, John Walsh, Khloe Kardashian)