In the wake of the New York Times’ pulling its financial backing, Discovery Times Channel will undergo a name change and rebranding to shed its Times connection.
Discovery Networks is in the early stages of determining a new identity for the channel, a process that will extend into 2007. A spokesperson said the network intends to retain its current events focus under the new brand, but otherwise had no comment.
With its 16 networks, Discovery is known for providing a suite of uniquely branded digital networks, but the Discovery Times space has a tortured history. The network was launched in 1996 as Discovery Civilizations and aired reruns of Discovery Channel programming.
Four years ago, the New York Times paid Discovery $100 million to restructure the channel as a joint venture. Under General Manager and Senior VP Vivian Schiller, the network produced investigative documentaries fueled by Times reporting and resources.
But Discovery Times failed to excite viewers or cable operators. The network was in 30 million homes upon rebranding and has since gained 12 million households. Third quarter to date, the network averaged 65,000 viewers, 30,000 of which fall within the 18 to 49 demographic. By comparison, fellow Discovery-owned niche network Discovery Health Channel averaged 248,000 viewers.
“Discovery has usually been very aggressive in improving their sub counts rather rapidly, and only gaining 12 million over the last few years seems below average for them,” said Brad Adgate, senior VP of Horizon Media. “Discovery Times is more like the stepchild as opposed to the other networks.”
In April, the New York Times announced it was pulling out of the venture-and taking Ms. Schiller with it. Ms. Schiller became senior VP and general manager of NYTimes.com, the newspaper’s Web site. Discovery Networks Executive VP and General Manager Jane Root added Discovery Times to her management responsibilities and maintained that the network’s name and brand would remain unchanged.
But behind the scenes, Discovery executives want to find a new identity for the channel and give it another fresh start.