In Depth

Carole Tomko, President and General Manager, Discovery Studios

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“ ‘Curiosity’ is John Hendricks’ vision. We’ve partnered with leading researchers, institutions and foremost experts to deliver a five-year, 60-part series on the great questions of science, technology, civilization and the human experience.”

TVWeek: Congratulations on your new responsibilities, first of all. If you could tell me a little about Discovery Studios. And then we’ll go a little bit, if it’s okay with you, about the project with John Hendricks.

Carole Tomko: Absolutely. I’m happy to. Discovery Studios is divided into three separate subdivisions. So we have a TV content group, and that TV content group is the largest supplier of content across the US networks. Since we established studios in 2007, we’ve produced over 500 hours of content for the US networks.

We also have a branded entertainment or short form group, and that group has really become the critical internal resource group for custom content brand sales. [It works] very closely with ad sales. And we produced last year about 80 projects.

And then the third group is the footage and music services group, which not a lot of people know about. And we have 14,000 tracks in Discovery music source, and we have over a 120,000 digital catalogue stock footage clips that we make available internally and externally as well. And so that’s the footage and music group. This last year, what we also did, is we established a science unit, which is where Curiosity will come in. And we also established a foothold on the West Coast. We have a 22,000-square foot facility. So we’ve got full presence in L.A. as well as the East coast.

TVWeek: That sounds like a huge responsibility and a lot of opportunity. If we could transition a little bit to the Curiosity Project from Discovery founder John Hendricks, and where you see that going and your role in that.

Tomko: Sure. My job really is to take John’s vision, and his personal leadership and to make this john-hendricks copy.jpgfive-year multiplatform initiative that will really satisfy the audience’s curiosity. So Curiosity is the joint venture between Discovery and [Hendricks’ upcoming adult education academy in Colorado] Experius. And we’ve partnered with leading researchers, institutions and foremost experts to deliver a five-year, 60-part series on the great questions of science, technology, civilization and the human experience.

So each one-hour episode will focus on one great question. And we’ll delve into that, and then each episode will also have a huge amount of deep dive content online that we’ll have for the viewer as well.

TVWeek: Well, it sounds absolutely fascinating. I’ve known John for many years, and it sounds right up his bailiwick. What I was wondering about is, will you be doing arcs with any of these topics that will be multi-episodic?

Tomko: Right now, no. Right now everyone will be standalone but I’ll give you an example. Nanotechnology is something that we’re currently researching. And the human genome. So those are two topics or areas that we’re heavy into the research stage. And it’s very likely that both of those arenas will cut across a number of questions, which will cut across a number of episodes. But it probably won’t be that we do a human genome episode part one, part two and part three.

So that’s the phase that we’re in right now—looking at all the research areas and working with all of our partners to figure out what are these really cool things that are enduring questions. We have our filter and we’re coming at them in a quintessential Discovery fashion. Turning those questions on its head. So you’re probably thinking , OK., I’ve seen shows on gravity, I’ve seen shows on time, I’ve seen shows on the human genome. My job is to bring this to the audience in a comprehensive fashion that’s never been done before.

And I actually think Discovery—which is why you’ve decided to honor Discovery I’d imagine—is really the only company that can do this in the way we’ll do it. There’s no one else that’s got all the US networks and the global reach that we have that can allow them to reach across all of them.

 We’ve got How Stuff Works, so that will be a platform. And we not only have How Stuff Works, but on all of our Discovery platforms we’ve got an education arm that reaches over 1,000 teachers. So this series will definitely, be pulling curriculum along those areas as well. Then we’re going to be partnering with all of the leading institutions as well and reaching out through them. And then John’s got the Experius Academy, which is an adult learning center. So it’s a really interesting franchise approach that feels right for someone like Discovery. I think we’re the only company that can really do that.

TVWeek: When is this going to air?

Tomko: We’ll start premiering on Discovery Channel, 8pm on Sunday nights in February, 2011.#

To read our introduction to this special report, "Cable TV Programmer of the Decade," click here.

To read our interview with Discovery President and CEO David Zaslav, click here.

To read our interview with Bruce Campbell, President, Digital Media and Corporate Development for Discovery, click here.

To read our interview with Bill Goodwyn, Discovery's President, Domestic Distribution and Enterprises, click here.

To read our interview with Henry Schleiff, Discovery's President and General Manager of Investigation Discovery, Military Channel and HD Theater, click here.

To read our interview with Marjorie Kaplan, President and General Manager, Animal Planet Media Enterprises, click here.

To read our interview with Laura Michalchyshyn, President and General Manager, Planet Green, Discovery Health and FitTV, click here.

To read our interview with Joe Abruzzese, President of Discovery Advertising Sales, click here

To read our interview with Eileen O'Neill, President and General Manager of TLC, click here

To read our interview with Clark Bunting, President and General Manager of the Discovery Channel, click here.

To read our interview with Mark Hollinger, President and CEO, Discovery Networks International, click here,