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DISCOVERY CHANNEL: The world is just ... Awesome

"Discovery Channel, the second most widely distributed cable network in the U.S., is dedicated to creating the highest quality non-fiction content that informs and entertains its consumers about the world in all its wonder, diversity and amazement."[1] It is an American satellite and Cable television channel focused on providing documentaries on sciences, technology and history through entertainment. 

History [2] 

Discovery Channel was founded in June 1985 by John Hendricks, with partial funding from the BBC. It was initially established as a part of Hendrick's company Cable Educational Network Inc., but in 1986, upon receiving further funding from a number of cable operators, Cable Educational Network Inc. and The Discovery Channel incorporated to become Discovery Communications, Inc. which still owns and operates Discovery Channel today. [3]

At its start, the channel had just 156,000 subscribers in the United States and was only broadcast for twelve hours a day in the afternoon and evening.  However, within five years, the channel's reach had extended to over 50 million households. Discovery Communications launched the first international broadcasting of Discovery Channel in the United Kingdom in 1989. The rapid expansion of the network continued in the following years with the launch of Discovery Channel in Asia and Latin America between January and February 1994. Due in part to the success of Discovery Channel, Discovery Communications was able to acquire several other cable channels including The Learning Channel (TLC) in 1991, and, in 1996, six new sub-channels to Discovery Channel: Animal Planet, Discovery Science, Discovery Kids, Discovery Civilization, Discovery Home and Leisure and Discovery Wings. This expansion of the network culminated in 1998 when Discovery Communications formed a global joint venture with BBC in March 1998.[4]

By this time, Discovery Channel had established its place among cable channels. By 2010, It had reached 100 million subscribers households in almost 180 different countries. In March 2000, the channel premiered the documentary "Raising the Mammoth", and broke all time cable ratings records.[5] In October 2001, Discovery Channel became the world's most widely distributed television brand, reaching 300 million households worldwide, and serving one billion cumulative subscribers in 2004.[6]

In the early 2000s, Discovery Channel registered a certain drops in its ratings, usually attributed to an over-broadcasting of shows that did not quite fit Discovery Channel's mission of educating the audience, such as Monster Garage and American Choppers. In response to this dip in ratings, Discovery Channel reformed its scheduling lineup in 2005 in an attempt to shift its content focus back toward educational programming that dealt with topics such as popular science, history, and geography. [7]

Ownership, conglomeration and related channels  

Discovery channel is owned by Discovery Communications Inc., which is publicly traded global media and entertainment company with the official slogan, "The number-one nonfiction media company."  Discovery Channel is managed under the Discovery Networks U.S. division of Discovery Communications. In addition to Discovery Channel,  Discovery Communications owns 12 other US cable and satellite television channels which include Discovery Channel, TLC and Animal Planet, Discovery Health, Science Channel, Discovery Kids, Investigation Discovery, Planet Green, Military Channel, FitTV, HD Theatre, Discovery en Espanol and Discovery Familia. According to Discovery Communication's official website, these 13 channels reach over 1 billion cumulative subscribers worldwide with the highest number of subscribers coming from Discovery Channel. [8]

Outside of television, Discovery Communications runs a number of websites such as and It also distributes BBC America and BBC World News to cable and satellite operators in the United States. Discovery Channel itself runs a number of other ventures that include a professional cycling team, radio stations, and online stores. 

Roles in production, distribution and transmission

Discovery Communications Inc. produces a number of original programs for its various channels, including Discovery Channel, but also purchases programs from numerous local and international producers. For example, MythBusters, one of the channel's most popular TV shows, is produced by an Australian based company called Beyond Television production. Discovery Communications also owns Discovery Studios, a film and television studio based in Maryland. 

Discovery Studios is Discovery Communication’s internal production engine, creating innovative, high-quality original series, specials and short-form content for the family of Discovery networks and digital media, as well as theatrical documentaries released under the award-winning Discovery Films banner. In 2008, Discovery Studios produced more than 300 hours of original series, specials and short-form content that aired across the family of Discovery networks, including Discovery Channel, TLC, Animal Planet, Planet Green, Discovery Health and Military Channel, and featured high-profile talent, such as Bill Nye, Howie Mandel, Dr. Mehmet Oz and more.[9]

Branding strategies

Discovery Channel sells itself as a nonfictional high quality channel providing educational programs, that focuses on popular science, technology, and history. Its image among viewers is that of a trust-worthy source of information about science, the natural world, and technological advances. According to the official website, Discovery Channel "provide[s] viewers with the highest quality nonfiction content that not only entertains and engages, but also enlightens, educates and inspires positive action."[10]Discovery Channel offers a mix of programming across many genres including, science and technology, exploration, adventure, history and in-depth, behind-the-scenes glimpses at the people, places and organizations that shape and share our world.[11]

Discovery Channel's attempt to portray itself in this manner is evident in the 2008 selection of its new slogan, "The world is just ... Awesome". Previous tag lines include "Explore Your World", "There's no thrill like discovery" and, when Discovery Channel moved away from purely educational content and adopted more reality based programming, "Entertain Your Brain". When Discovery Channel adopted its current slogan in 2008, the logo was also redesigned. The globe that has always been part of the logo was moved from its position underneath the word "Discovery" to overlap with the "D", allowing for use of just the D with the globe as a simplified version of the logo as seen below.

Screen shot 2010-10-07 at 8.12.12 PM.png

Discovery Channels reaches all type of audiences with programs ranging from documentaries to game shows (Cash Cab) to reality TV (Deadliest Catch) to science entertainment (very popular MythBusters). The target audience for such a variety of programming is cast as curious people and looking to learn more, be it through the quick question-answer format of the cash cab or through hours long documentary like Discovery Channel's acclaimed Planet Earth. However, according to Discovery Channels corporate website, the target audience is "adults 25-54, particularly males." [12]

Scheduling and promotional techniques

As already mentioned, Discovery Channel shows mostly documentary and reality type programming. Discovery Channel is not a news channel and thus does not cover any polemical issues and does not make investigation documentaries on current issues. The channel has also been increasingly broadcasting reality-based themes such as speculative investigation (MythBusters, Best Evidence), automobiles shows (American Chopper) or shows about occupations (Dirty Jobs). 

Scheduling on Discovery Channel works the division of the day into 30 minute intervals, though most shows actually air for one or two hours. It is interesting to notice that the schedule for broadcasting during the day seems to be the same every day on week days, with hit show American Chopper taking all the afternoon on week days and reality game show Cash Cab taking the early evening. The evening line-up includes popular shows Man vs. Wild, MythBusters, Swords, and River Monsters[13]

While these shows are all part of Discovery Channel's signature programs, many people tend to associate Discovery Channel first and foremost with MythBusters. MythBusters is a show that focuses each episode on testing the validity of several popular beliefs, rumors, or other myths. It was first aired in 2006, although the idea was first presented to Discovery Channel in 2000. Now, it is a highly influential show, the hosts having been invited to numerous talk shows and universities. 

Another famous scheduling tradition at Discovery Channel is the annual summer Shark Week specials, during which the channel dedicates all its programs to sharks. It was first aired in 1987 and has been reprogramed every year ever since, during July or August. It is now a highly-popular event on the cable network.

Textual Analysis: Deadliest Catch

genre, style, tone, production method, or target audience.

how its form and content fit with the industrial strategies and contexts of Discovery Channel.

How does the program and its cultural meanings fit within the channel's brand?

How might the production history of the show connect with its ownership structure?

How does the program's scheduling connect with the channel's larger strategies?

Textual Analysis: Life

genre, style, tone, production method, or target audience.

how its form and content fit with the industrial strategies and contexts of Discovery Channel

How does the program and its cultural meanings fit within the channel's brand?

How might the production history of the show connect with its ownership structure?

How does the program's scheduling connect with the channel's larger strategies?


  1. "Discovery Channel." Discovery Communications. Web. 06 Oct. 2010. <>.
  2. "Company Timeline." Discovery Communications. Web. 06 Oct. 2010. <>.
  3. Zad, Martie (June 19, 1988). "The Discovery Channel; Science, Nature, Adventure and Animals That Bite". The Washington Post.
  4. "Company Timeline." Discovery Communications. Web. 06 Oct. 2010. <>.
  5. "Company Timeline." Discovery Communications. Web. 06 Oct. 2010. <>.
  7. "Discovery Channel." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 06 Oct. 2010. <>.
  8. "Discovery Holding Company Information Statement." U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (Home Page). Web. 06 Oct. 2010. <>.
  9. "Discovery Studios." Discovery Communications. Web. 06 Oct. 2010. <>.
  10. "Our Viewers : Discovery Impact." Home : Discovery Impact. Web. 06 Oct. 2010. <>.
  11. "Discovery Studios." Discovery Communications. Web. 06 Oct. 2010. <>.
  12. "Discovery Studios." Discovery Communications. Web. 06 Oct. 2010. <>.
  13. "Discovery Channel : TV Listings." Discovery Channel : Science, History, Space, Tech, Sharks, News. Web. 06 Oct. 2010. <>.