Discovery gets green light

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NEW YORK -- Discovery Communications is going green in a big way, developing a series titled "10 Ways to Save the Planet" for the Discovery Channel and rebranding another channel, Discovery Home, as Discovery Planet Green, dedicated to environmentally conscious living.

At its upfront presentation last week in Manhattan, new president and CEO David Zaslav announced those and several other initiatives, including the network's plans to stream two full-length premieres on the Web a week before they air on TV.

The green initiative builds upon the success of Discovery's multipart "Planet Earth" HD series that has been five years in the making. Zaslav said this was the next logical extension of the vision of that series. It's a multiplatform event that will involve not only Discovery and the new Discovery Green Planet but also Animal Planet (for shows on animal extinction) and Discovery Health Channel (for shows on healthy living).

"It's a great initiative that goes to the heart of what Discovery is all about," Zaslav said.

"Save the Planet" will spotlight global warming and what can be done about it. The series debuts in third-quarter 2008.

Discovery GM Jane Root said that in the same way that "Planet Earth" has helped people fall in love with their planet all over again, "Save the Planet" will help them learn how to save it.

Josh Bernstein will be the host of "Josh Bernstein's Adventure," which will focus on landmark places throughout the world. Bernstein also will lead an annual Discovery-funded tour of the Earth's most endangered places with educators and others to raise awareness of the problems. Bernstein, who appeared at the upfront, took off Friday to the North Pole for an expedition of the Polar Ice Cap.

Discovery Green Planet is billed as the first channel dedicated to environmentally sound living. The channel will get a $50 million commitment to new programming and a multiplatform approach with a 2008 launch and about 50 million households. The shows will focus on science and technology, ecotourism and organic living, among other topics.

Discovery's iPremieres will feature such popular shows as "Man vs. Wild" and "Dirty Jobs" on Discovery and "American Chopper" and "What Not to Wear" on TLC in the third quarter. Other shows will be announced.

It's not all green. TLC in the fourth quarter will launch its first primetime talk show titled "Shut Up! It's Stacy London," featuring the "What Not to Wear" co-host. London's co-host, Clinton Kelly, also will have his own show, "Mind Your Manners."

Although Travel Channel is set to leave the Discovery fold -- it will be acquired by Cox Communications -- the channel's top executive, Patrick Younge, and one of its stars, Anthony Bourdain, made appearances.

"For our audience, clients and business partners, it's business as usual this upfront," Younge said. Later, Discovery's Ted Koppel made an appearance onstage and wondered aloud: "Didn't they just sell the channel?"

Koppel spoke about his two upcoming projects, one on living with incurable cancer (and featuring the story of former "Nightline" executive producer Leroy Sievers, whose colon cancer spread 14 months ago) and a town meeting live after the documentary with Elizabeth Edwards and other people living with cancer. That show will air May 6. Koppel also said the next project is about California's overcrowded prisons, overflowing because of its "three strikes" policy.

Zaslav said that in only three months at Discovery, he has been amazed by its reach of not only 15 domestic channels but also more than 100 total channels in 171 countries.

"It's bigger, it's stronger and more unique than I ever imagined," Zaslav said.
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