On June 1, 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 fostering their slogan, "The number-one nonfiction media company." 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. Animal Planet HD was also released in 2007. Today Animal Planet Media includes the cable network, AnimalPlanet.com, Animal Planet Beyond, Petfinder.com, as well as other media platforms.
Production, Distribution and Transmission
Discovery Communications owns its own production studio, Discovery Studios. Discovery Studios has offices in both Silver Spring, Maryland and Los Angeles. 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 3, 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" replacing its original "All Animals, All the Time" slogan.
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.
Today, Discovery Communications reaches more than 1.5 billion cumulative subscribers in over 170 countries with over 100 worldwide networks. Nationally, Animal Planet is available in 85 million homes nationwide. Some of providers of Animal Planet include Dish Network, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and DirecTV. Animal Planet's website suggests contacting local cable providers to learn whether or not they carry Animal Planet. The website goes a step further with a cable finder feature that helps people find local providers in their area so they can tell their providers they "want Animal Planet now!" In September 1, 2007 Animal Planet HD was also released and is available through these same providers.
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 ParoleesPets have proven to be very successful on the channel as proven by the popularity of Dogs 101, Cats 101 and Pit Boss. This years line-up includes:
- 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.
- 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.
A look at morning programming for Animal Planet (8 am-10 am) shows a very obvious trend, dogs, with the shows Pet Star and It's Me or the Dog on Monday through Friday. Weekend morning television is lighter fare with The Planet's Funniest Animals--an obvious imitation of America's Funniest Home Videos. Dogs continue to be the name of the game until noon when episodes of Animal Cops Phoenix begin airing encompassing a wider range of pets. Early evening and evening programming maintains many of the same shows but also includes episodes of Weird, True, and Freaky and The Most Extreme as more compelling television for adult viewers home from a day at work. Depending on the day, Animal Planet may air new episodes of their shows, TV specials, or movies during their primetime hours.
Branding and Promotion
Included on the Animal Planet's online shop are: posters, clothing, DVDs, toys, "fan gear" and books. The website organizes all of its merchandise in categories such as show and subjects to make for an easy shopping experience.
Oh June 17, 2004 the National Aquarium in Baltimore announced a multi-year partnership to support a 65,000 square foot Australia expansion. The $66 million, "Animal Planet Australia: Wild Extremes" exhibit included an orientation film made by Animal Planet to give visitors background on Australia's Northern Territory shown in the exhibit. The exhibit housed in a crystal pavilion and recreated the sights and sounds of the Norther Territory.
On October 8, 2007 Discovery Communications and JAKKS Pacific, Inc. announced that through Discovery Kids licensing agent Big Tent Entertainment, JAKKS had signed a worldwide master toy license agreement with Discovery Communications. The toys produced under this agreement include puzzles and activity kits.
- 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.