Discovery, Baidu join for website

Chinese-language site will highlight Discovery content

BEIJING -- U.S. television giant Discovery Networks and Baidu, China's No. 1 search engine, will launch a joint Chinese-language website on Wednesday targeting a fast-growing market of web users and young students hungry for facts.

Discovery Channel Chinese will target the 21 million Chinese fans of Discovery's on-air programming blocks, offering them a chance to learn more about science, technology, history and culture.

"Our partnership with Baidu is a natural way to satisfy the curiosity of our growing Chinese audience for science and empirical facts," Tom Keavney, Discovery Networks's executive vice president and Asia Pacific managing director, told The Hollywood Reporter.

The ad-supported website will be customized for the Chinese market and aim to foster learning among China's primary and middle and primary schools, the companies said in a statement released after a press conference here.
In China, where the Communist Party is very protective of the media, and of television in particular, Discovery is, Keavney said, "careful not to break any local rules."

Keavney said the website could feature ads from Discovery's cable programming block advertisers, which include leading mobile telecoms provider China Mobile, Volkswagen and rising local brewery, Snow Beer.

Discovery, a part of a part of Nasdaq-listed Discovery Communications, saw the Chinese audience for its main programming block on the municipal cable systems of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou grow 11% in the first half of 2009 compared with the same period in 2008, Keavney said.

Discovery's block programming began in China in 1998 and now draws content from the Discovery, Science, Animal Planet, and Travel and Living channels.

Meanwhile, the total number of China’s Internet users reached 338 million as of June 30, representing a 13.4% increase from the end of 2008, according to the government-affiliated China Internet Network Information Center.

In that blossoming market, Baidu, which was founded in Beijing in 2000, claims a 73.2% share among search engines, far outstripping U.S. rival Google's Chinese avatar.

Ren Xuyang, Baidu's vice president of marketing and business development, said in a statement that the online partnership would, "integrate content from a traditional medium such as television with dynamic platforms such as new media to satisfy the needs and demands of online users while continuing to explore newer and better ways for knowledge distribution."

As a part of its series on engineering, Discovery did extensive programming in China around the 2008 Beijing Olympics, about the national "Bird's Nest" stadium, and about the capital's giant new airport.

"Relationships are important in China. We've been working on the Baidu relationship for a few years and we'll continue to build partnerships in China wherever they make sense," Keavney said.