Bethesda-based Discovery Communications Inc. launches the first part of its $330 million gamble on peddling consumer health tomorrow with the official debut of www.discoveryhealth.com, an Internet site that joins the crowded field of medical news and information.

The site is part of a package of ventures, including a new cable television network being launched in August, under the corporate umbrella of Discovery Health Media, also based in Bethesda.

The Web site, established in partnership with health information company Intelihealth, will have one big advantage in the online world, said Discovery Health President John Ford: the Discovery name. The online marketplace for this kind of information is "very, very fragmented," Ford said. "When you go out in the world of the Internet I think one of the things you look for is a brand name you recognize.

"You see `health-whateverdotcom' and you really don't know what you're going to get there," he said.

The site will be promoted on the new Discovery Health Channel and other Discovery channels; it will compete with a similar venture from Fox. Discovery is offering cable operators potentially lucrative deals to feature its new channel, however -- including offers of stock to large cable system operators that carry the channel.

The company hopes to have 15 million subscribing homes for the health channel by the end of the year.