Discovery plans more international launches to follow TLC

Having announced yesterday its intention to roll out female-skewing cable network TLC internationally, Discovery has said it is looking at launches for the upcoming Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) and kids channel The Hub outside the US. Discovery International president and CEO Mark Hollinger Hollinger told Digital TV Europe that the launch of TLC could be followed by other international services. The aim, he said, was to have three or four strong ad-supported channels in international markets.

“OWN has the potential to be a strong brand in some markets,” he said. Decisions could be based on the strength or otherwise of the profile of the Oprah show in particular markets. He highlighted Canada as a market where it was well-received. “Whether it has broader distribution elsewhere remains to be seen,” he said.

Hollinger added that Discovery also had “some international ambitions” for The Hub, which is a joint venture with Hasbro. In the US it will launch this autumn. The existing Discovery Kids channel is strong in Latin America, where Discovery stole a march on its competitors, but lack of investment in programming has acted as a brake on its development in the US and elsewhere. “Now with enhanced production investment along with Hasbro, maybe we can add a second channel in Latin America and take a kids channel to other markets,” he said.

The international TLC roll out starts this week with launches on Norwegian pay-TV services Canal Digital, GET and Lyse pay TV services. Discovery says the channel will be in 100 million homes by spring 2011.

“We are still oriented towards affiliate revenue in our international portfolio, so we thought ad revenue was an area to go for,” said Hollinger. “Except for Discovery Kids in Latin America we have not had a strong ad sales story in the international portfolio and the mission was to find that.”

Hollinger said that the launch of a female-oriented channel also gave balance to a portfolio that hitherto has been predominantly male-oriented. The international launch of TLC also built on the success of the channel in the US over the last two years, which has been accompanied by the creation of a strong programme production base to support it.

TLC will be locally versioned for each market. “It’s intended to be a global channel but the strategy will differ in terms of the programming mix, which will be more localised and customised for TLC than it is for the Discovery Channel,” said Hollinger, who added that this was made necessary by the lifestyle-oriented element of the channel’s remit. He said investment in local programming was “a substantial priority” for the channel. Discovery will also draw on its programming base for other channels to bolster the channel’s output, including using content from Discovery ID in markets where it is not already distributed. “In markets where ID doesn’t have distribution we could draw on that rather than launch in parallel,” said Hollinger.