Discovery Sees Ratings Gold in Effects-Heavy Dramas

May 2, 2005  •  Post A Comment

After the success of last month’s “Supervolcano,” Discovery Channel is ordering another scripted special depicting computer-generated special effects mayhem.

“This signals a new trend for Discovery Channel-fact-based dramas that look like Hollywood movies,” said Phil Fairclough, Discovery Channel’s acting general manager and VP of production.

“Supervolcano” was a Discovery co-production with the BBC’s science unit and showed a present-day eruption of a dormant volcano under Yellowstone National Park. The special drew more than 5 million viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research.

Though he declined to provide details, Mr. Fairclough said he is ordering at least one similar follow-up project, perhaps as a multihour miniseries.

Another unannounced special on Discovery’s horizon is a reality effort titled “Red/Blue,” where a liberal “blue state” family swaps lives with a conservative “red state” family. Mr. Fairclough said the special was inspired by the 2004 election.

“We have an ongoing initiative to tackle issues we think are really important,” he said. “This will maybe shed some light on the alleged divide in an entertaining way.”

Discovery Channel was down 26 percent in prime-time ratings during the first quarter 2005, according to Nielsen. Then last month, the premieres of “Supervolcano” and the crab fishing series “Deadliest Catch” helped boost Discovery’s household viewership by 11 percent over the same period last year.