Discovery ramps up Russian operations

Launching mother-daughter makeover show, 'Wildest Africa'

MOSCOW -- Does Russia have its own Kate Gosselin?

Discovery Communications plans to step up Russian operations, David Zaslav, Discovery's president and CEO said in Moscow on Wednesday. The network will launch local versions of shows like "Kate Plus 8" and "Cake Boss," which have made TLC so successful stateside. It will also feature a mother-daughter makeover series.

"Russia is one of the most dynamic markets in the world and Discovery Communications is focused on increasing a number of high quality services from our brand portfolio in the market," he said. "Today's commitment is to ensure Russian audiences have access to entertaining and educational programming across a number of Discovery's properties and platforms."

According to Zaslav, TLC, the company's flagship female channel, is to be launched in Russia in January 2011 and is to become Discovery's first channel here, programming for which will also be supplied by Russian production companies.

"The addition of more local productions and talent, coupled with science education programming, and the launch of TLC all represent just the beginning of an expanded commitment in Russia," Zaslav said. "We're focused on investing in Russia and we'll be using our new Moscow hub to ensure we're developing new services and the best content for our Russian audience."

He added that Discovery will be expanding its current Russian operation, responsible for programming, advertising sales and affiliate relations for Discovery's portfolio of seven channels in the country, including Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, Discovery Travel & Living and ID Discovery Investigation.

According to TNS TV Index Plus, in 2009, Discovery Communications' channels were ahead of all other international television groups operating in the Russian market, in the 18-44 male audience group. However, the Discovery portfolio's ratings are low, compared with those of Russian channels. In September, the Russian version of Discovery Channel ranked 20th in the Moscow region, with a market share of 0.4%.

Earlier this year, President Dmitry Medvedev said that Discovery Channel's domestic equivalent should be created, but there has been no news on when such a channel could go on the air.