Discovery grows Animal Planet

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Discovery Communications is venturing deeper into the animal kingdom with the formation of a multiplatform company that caters exclusively to pet lovers of all kinds, the company said Thursday.

Animal Planet Media Enterprises will consist of a centralized online, TV and mobile community with advice, research tools, local resources and user-generated and interactive content revolving around animals and the care of pets.

As part of its creation, Discovery Communications has acquired Petfinder.com, a Web property specializing in the process of pet adoption, and PetsIncredible, a producer and distributor of pet-training videos and owner of broadband portal PetVideo.com. Combined, both acquisitions cost $35 million, and employees from both properties will be retained, sources said.

The new unit also will include the Animal Planet television network and such other online assets as animalplanet.com and the broadband channel Animal Planet Beyond as well as a video-on-demand service, mobile content and merchandise extensions.

"The depth and breadth of Animal Planet's reach across the country and its powerful status as a beloved and trusted brand will enable us to leverage our unparalleled animal video archive, expertise and resources across a range of high-growth media platforms," said John Hendricks, founder and chairman of Discovery Communications.

Maureen Smith, executive vp and general manager of Animal Planet, will expand her duties to lead the new business and will continue to report to Billy Campbell, president of Discovery Networks U.S.

"Domestic animals are such a key passion point for our viewers that it was time to be more than just an entertainment service but a real resource," Smith said.

Smith referred to the Animal Planet television network as the "mothership" from which all the other parts of Animal Planet Media Enterprises will benefit, and she said that Petfinder.com will remain the same, except for its new Animal Planet branding.

She said the VOD offerings will include entertainment content as well as resource material.

She also noted new mobile content that will feature useful tips like a shortform segment on pet first-aid.

"The whole goal is to be everywhere our audience is and to provide entertainment and utilitarian content," Smith added.
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