On June 1st, 1996 Discovery Communications launched Animal Planet as the only channel to explore the relationship between people and animals or as its website states:
“Animal Planet…is the world’s only entertainment brand that immerses viewers in the full range of life in the animal kingdom with rich, deep content on multiple platforms. APM [Animal Planet Media] offers animal lovers and pet owners access to a centralized online, television and mobile community for immersive, engaging, high-quality entertainment, information and enrichment.”
Animal Planet was born into Discovery Communications’ family of channels including, at the time, The Learning Channel and the Discovery Channel. Just 4 years after Animal Planet was born it broke the 100 million subscribing household mark globally. Discovery Communications went on to acquire The Travel Channel and launch channels including Discovery Kids and Discovery Health Channel. In 2007, the success of the Discovery Communications networks earned it the most nominations ever, eighteen, for the 18th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards. Today Animal Planet Media includes the cable network, AnimalPlanet.com, Animal Planet Beyond, Petfinder.com, as well as other media platforms.
Production & Programming
Discovery Communications owns its own production studio, Discovery Studios. It creates originial series, specials and short-form content for all of its channels. It also produces theatrical documentaries under the banner: Discovery Films. The only series currently airing on Animal Planet produced by Discovery Studios is Into the Pride. Perusal on the Internet Movie Database (IMDB), however, will reveal that Discovery Studios produces a majority of the specials and documentaries that air on the channel. The other series in Animal Planet's line-up are produced by independent studios such as: Powderhouse Productions, Gurney Productions, and Intuitive Entertainment. The list goes on. Common clients between these independent studios listed on their websites are MTV, A&E, and the Food Network.
After a 9% drop in primetime viewing in 2007, Animal Planet underwent a makeover to increase viewership. Marjorie Kaplan, president and general manage of Animal Planet Media said,
"We feel a little too human, a little too soft, a little too all-family and not powerful enough. We're being more aggressive and tapping into the instinctual nature of compelling animal content."
The channel wanted to replace its paternalistic and preachy image with a more entertaining and edgier one beginning February 3rd, 2008, by debuting eight new series and specials. Rather than targeting full families, this makeover would specifically target 25-49 year olds. Included in this transformation was the replacement of the elephant and globe logo with a words-only logo that would be placed over a number of animal photographs. This rebranding of Animal Planet continues today with its new slogan, "Surprisingly Human" mentioned in an April 2010 press release by the network emphasizing Kaplan's assertion that, "There is no human world separate from the animal world."
Animal Planet's programming this season certainly highlights relationships between people and animals. The most popular series on Animal Planet are: Whale Wars, River Monsters, Monsters Inside Me, Dogs 101, Cats 101, and Pit Bulls and Parolees. Whale Wars follows Captain Paul Watson and the Sea Sheperd Conservation Society as they try to stop Japanese ships from hunting whales in the name of research. A new series named Dolphin Wars echoes the same conservation motif and follows Ric O'Barry and his son (of Academy Award-winning documentary The Cove fame) in their efforts to save dolphins. Another new series is Last Chance Highway, a show produced by Al Roker Productions which uncovers an "underground railroad" which save stray dogs in the South and transports them to the Northeast for adoption. Pets have proven to be very successful on the channel as proven by the popularity of Dogs 101, Cats 101 and Pit Boss. The most surprising new series that is set to debut is Taking on Tyson. It sheds light on the famous Mike Tyson taking on a setting no one has even seen him in before, the competitive world of pigeon racing. Other themes Animal Planet's shows also touch upon are the paranormal, near-death encounters (often through confrontations with an animal) and the scientifically bizarre to create compelling television.
Discovery Communications started distributing Animal Planet by purchasing the channel space of a New York Superchannel, WWOR EMI Service. This channel based out of new york broadcasted nationally as a form of a local channel. This allowed Discovery Communications to air Animal Planet according to the recently passed Syndex Laws which protected local channels rights to air syndicated television that they had exclusive ownership to. This specific channel was chosen because of the close ties between Advance Communications, who at the time owned WWOR EMI Service and Discovery Communications. In fact, at the time Advance was a partial owner of Discovery Communications. WWOR EMI Service only airs Animal Planet US, however, the channel is broadcasted in a number of other countries in conjunction with the BBC.
- http://corporate.discovery.com/brands/us/animal-planet/ Discovery Communications: Animal Planet. Retrieved October 3, 2010.
- http://corporate.discovery.com/our-company/company-timeline/ Discovery Communications: Company Timeline. Retrieved October 3, 2010.