By Annys Shin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
Discovery Communications Inc. yesterday began selling programs such as "MythBusters" and specials such as "Shark Week" on Apple Computer Inc.'s iTunes Music Store in its latest effort to expand into new digital platforms.
Discovery's debut on iTunes comes as major broadcast and cable networks have begun to embrace new media with the hope that they can sell advertising across multiple platforms.
The Silver Spring cable programmer is no exception. Last month, it launched two video-focused Internet sites, Discovery Channel Beyond and Travel Channel Beyond, and today it expects to launch a third, Animal Planet Beyond, said Don Baer, senior executive vice president for strategy and development.
Under the iTunes deal, viewers can download an assortment of Discovery shows from the online store for the standard iTunes rate of $1.99. Discovery and Apple split the revenue. More detailed financial terms were not disclosed.
Most major broadcast and cable programmers have cut similar deals to sell content through iTunes, and millions of consumers have taken to downloading their favorite shows. To date, neither Apple nor the programmers have integrated advertising with iTunes video offerings.
In the iTunes store, Discovery has tried to set itself apart by emphasizing information viewers might want in portable form. Examples include "Pregnancy for Dummies" and a series of short films on National Parks.
"Knowledge-based programming -- that's what we can do that no one else can do as well," Baer said. "No one has stepped up to do this yet [in a portable way]."
Following this strategy, Discovery also recently acquired Antenna Audio, a London-based provider of digital audio and multimedia programming for museums, historical sites and cultural attractions. Antenna Audio will join the Travel Channel and Travel Channel Beyond as part of the Discovery Travel Media group, a separate business unit the company set up to integrate travel-related content and commerce.
Discovery last month began offering streaming video content to Google Earth. It plans to launch Discovery Mobile, a 24-hour mobile programming network, during the third quarter of this year that will offer content across its networks.
In recent months, a revamped lineup has helped boost ratings at its flagship networks, the Discovery Channel and TLC. Last year, lower ratings at those networks affected upfront commitments, and in turn, contributed to a 6 percent decline in first-quarter advertising revenue at Discovery's U.S. networks.