Discovery to produce 3 specials for CBS Cable network hopes to pick up viewers in 28 million households

September 05, 1996|By Gary Gately | Gary Gately,SUN STAFF

In a move that will dramatically expand Discovery Communications Inc.'s exposure, the Bethesda-based cable TV network said yesterday that it will produce original prime-time nature specials for the CBS Television Network.

The first of three one-hour, documentary-style specials to be broadcast in the coming year will air this fall, Discovery and CBS said yesterday. The agreement marks the first of its kind for the two networks.

Fast-growing Discovery hailed the agreement as a way to reach 28 million non-cable households with high-quality shows, The shows take about 18 months to two years to research, film and produce.

"We're extremely excited to have an opportunity to put this kind of programming on CBS; it allows us to, we think, reinforce what a lot of cable subscribers already know," said Grey Moyer, president and chief editorial and creative officer at Discovery.

CBS predicted that the shows by Discovery, which has won acclaim for its nature-oriented documentaries, would prove popular among prime-time viewers, particularly families.

"We naturally came to the Discovery Channel because of the quality of product they produce," said Terry Botwick, CBS Entertainment vice president for specials. "We're very pleased to be associating ourselves with the Discovery brand."

The first show is nearing completion, but CBS and Discovery declined to disclose subject matter or other specifics, saying only that it would focus on nature.

Each show will cost much more than the $500,000 to $600,000 it typically costs to produce a Discovery documentary, the cable company said. But neither CBS nor Discovery would disclose other financial details of the agreement.

The shows will air in the fall, winter and spring.

CBS will hold exclusive U.S. broadcast rights for about three TC years, after which the specials will make their cable premier on the Discovery Channel. Discovery will retain all international rights to the programs.

Yesterday's announcement came about two weeks after CBS and its parent, Westinghouse Electric Corp., announced an alliance with Discovery for Eye on People, a new cable channel to be launched by March. The channel will focus on programs about personalities, famous and obscure, contemporary and historical.

Privately held Discovery, specializing in nonfiction historical and nature programming, has enjoyed remarkable growth in the past decade. The network began in 1985 with a staff of 19 and 156,000 subscribers. By last year, it reached 80 million homes in 65 countries, employed 600 and had assets of about $2 billion.

Pub Date: 9/05/96

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