In Depth

Discovery Branches Out Online

Planet Green's Planned Multiplatform Strategy Is Augmented by TreeHugger.com Acquisition

In order to reach the wide range of people within Planet Green's target demographic of viewers 18 to 49 who are interested in going green, the channel has adopted a multiplatform strategy to provide the depth of information that can have a real impact. College students might gravitate first to a Web site, while busy baby boomers might snack on mobile content and young families can enjoy the flexibility of video-on-demand.

Planet Green plans to offer all of the above. "The overall mission of Planet Green is to educate, entertain and enable people to live greener lifestyles," said Claire Alexander, Planet Green VP of operations. "You can do a lot of entertainment and education on TV, but the Web is critical to fulfilling the overall mission of enabling."

With Discovery's recent acquisition of TreeHugger.com, a leading go-to environmental site, and the expected launch of Planet Green's own Web site by the end of the year, Planet Green is doubling up on ways to connect online.

TreeHugger.com, launched by entrepreneur Graham Hill in July 2004, has quickly grown to be a comprehensive site for the green crowd. In July it tallied 1.6 million uniques and 4.25 million page views. Mr. Hill said TreeHugger has served more than 55 million page views since the site was launched.

Mr. Hill said TreeHugger aggregates "all the cool, exciting, aspirational, inspirational [green-oriented] things happening on a global basis," drawing on 40 writers around the world.

"With TreeHugger, people can easily step into a green future," he said. "It paints a compelling vision of the world that is modern, exciting and positive and not entirely about sacrifice. It allows you to move in a greener direction."

The acquisition by Discovery will help TreeHugger grow, said Mr. Hill. "Our goal was to push sustainability mainstream," he said. "Discovery will help us put the pedal down."

The TreeHugger and Planet Green Web sites are intended to complement one another. "TreeHugger is the noun and Planet Green is the verb," said Ms. Alexander. "We'll really focus on having people transform from 'knowing' to 'doing,' making it very personal, with a lot of community and tools. It will be a real, functional Web site that has a purpose that goes way beyond the shows. But you'll be able to go to the site without having ever watched the shows and have real resources and tips about how to go green in your own life."

Creating Synergies

The synergies of operating two Web sites open up other creative possibilities, according to Ms. Alexander and Mr. Hill, although both are mum on details at this early stage. "Things that I've wanted to do with TreeHugger will be able to happen on Planet Green," Mr. Hill said.

Ms. Alexander said the Planet Green site will feature such practical tools as a way for people to track their progress in becoming more green and will offer contacts for information, products and nonprofit organizations. The Planet Green site will debut online in September, as a bare-bones "drumbeat," prior to the major launch at the end of the year.

The Web site, like the Planet Green channel, is intended to skew to adults 18 to 49, and Ms. Alexander pointed to aspects of the Web sites that will attract a variety of groups within that demographic. "College students are very interested in going green, so we feel we'll get a lot of them on the site, and TreeHugger also skews young," she said. "We also expect young families. Typically, one of the ways that people get into green is when they're pregnant and think about what they should be eating and what they want to feed their children. So the young family is a key access point to green. And boomers are part of the original Woodstock generation and are passionate about continuing to do good for the world."

Short-form "green" programs for the mobile platform are already in full swing. Ms. Alexander points to "Go Green!" and "Green Gadgets." "These are the kinds of actionable clips that introduce people to products, businesses, actions they didn't realize were out there," she said.

Video-on-demand is another prong of the multiplatform strategy. "We expect a solid VOD offering," she said. "There'll be a Planet Green button in most of the cable systems we're on. We'll follow the strategy of our other VOD products, with shows from the Planet Green channel and other channels in our family, as well as some premieres on VOD.

"The effort isn't just the channel. All of our channels will program for the Planet Green channel, with programs that are more action-oriented," she added.

Just as the Planet Green initiative aims to show the interconnectedness of life on earth, so the multiple platforms will also be integrated -- and expand the concept of what green means.

"I think right now we're stuck in the mentality that green is about changing your light bulbs," said Ms. Alexander. "People get started out of fear or guilt, and we hope to turn that on its head, so that once they're with us, they can be as fascinated and excited about green as we are. You learn you can grow a tomato plant indoors. Even people living in an urban environment can watch the circle of life."

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