Discovery Channel Races To Plant Flag In Costa Concordia Recovery Project

Discovery Channel raced this morning to announce it would document the raising of the Costa Concordia, and get it on the air lickety split — this Friday at 10 PM ET. As Discovery put out the word, engineers in Giglio, Italy, on Monday had begun raising the cruise ship that ran aground nearly two years ago during what was supposed to be a weeklong Mediterranean cruise, killing 32 of its 4,229 passengers and crew members. Discovery learned the hard way last year the price of delay when it comes to cruise-ship disaster docus, after getting bloodied in a major battle with National Geographic Channel.

Back in January 2012, just days after the cruise ship ran aground off the Tuscan island, Discovery Channel had announced it would “dissect the anatomy” of the Friday the 13th disaster — with the quiet confidence of a network long used to being the only game in town — and said the docu would air “this spring.” But on the same day an Italian court refused to lift the house arrest order for the ship’s captain, Discovery nemesis National Geographic Channel attacked, announcing it had hired the producers of the quick-turnaround British documentary Terror At Sea: The Sinking Of The Concordia — which had already aired on the UK’s Channel 4 — to rework it for this market, rename it Italian Cruise Ship Disaster: The Untold Stories, and slap it on the air that Sunday, beating Discovery’s Cruise Ship Disaster: Inside The Concordia by a week. “Just announced! National Geographic Channel to air first U.S. documentary detailing the Italian cruise ship disaster moment-by-moment,” NatGeo bragged back then. Read More »

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Discovery Ups Denise Contis To West Coast EVP

By | Thursday September 5, 2013 @ 8:30am PDT

EXCLUSIVE: Denise Contis has been promoted to EVP Production and Development at Discovery Channel — West Coast. She’s replacing Nancy Daniels, who earlier this week was named GM of TLC network, replacing Amy Winter, who stepped down from the post last month for personal reasons but remains with the network as EVP Brand Marketing. Contis most recently served as SVP Production and Development at Discovery, overseeing all execution for the channel’s programming. She oversaw its highly rated white-knuckle special Skywire Live With Nik Wallenda, which was the No. 1 program on all of TV in overall audience and key demos the weekend of June 22. Contis also spearheaded Discovery’s much discussed clothing-challenged survivalist series Naked And Afraid. During her tenure, she helped launch such Discovery staples as Fast ‘N Loud, Alaska: The Last Frontier, and Yukon Men and kept tabs on Deadliest Catch. Read More »

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Discovery Reality Show Chopper Crash Due To “Cost-Cutting Measures”, Says New Lawsuit

By | Thursday August 29, 2013 @ 6:47pm PDT

Citing a concern with the bottom line over safety, the widow and children of a Special Forces vet killed in February while filming a military-themed Discovery Channel show took its parent company to court this week in a wrongful death and negligence suit. Grisel Donatelli, Amanda Donatelli and Dominic Donatelli named Discovery Communications, producers Eyeworks USA, Bongo Inc, Van Nuys Copters, Crossbow Helicopters and Orbic Air and others in the complaint (read it here) filed late Thursday in LA Superior Court. Cast member Michael Donatelli, cameraman Darren Rydstrom and pilot David Gibbs died in the early morning of February 10 when the helicopter the trio was in crashed in an open field at the Polsa Rosa Ranch in Acton.

Related: Three Killed During Discovery Channel Reality Show Filming 

The new complaint alleges this accident and others like it occurred in part because Discovery and other defendants wanted to save a buck and increase their profits. “Discovery, Discovery Talent, Eyeworks, Bongo and Does 51 through 100 and each of them, also have had an extensive history of knowingly failing to provide adequate safety measures for the filming of reality series such as this one,” the filing says. “These safety problems were the result of cost-cutting measures aimed at increasing profits as a result of conscious disregard of the additional, unacceptable safety risks imposed. These safety problems have resulted in injuries and death in the filming of such television series, and have continued to do so following the death of Decedent Donatelli,” it adds. Read More »

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Amy Winter Steps Down As TLC GM; Transitions Back To Marketing

By | Friday August 23, 2013 @ 12:17pm PDT

EXCLUSIVE: Amy Winter has stepped down as General Manager of Discovery Communications’ TLC network but will remain with the net as EVP Brand Marketing. According to an informed source, Winter told staff that her plans to relocate her family from Atlanta didn’t work out as planned. Winter has three children under age 7, and her husband works in Atlanta.

As TLC’s GM, she gets credit for Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, Long Island Medium, and Breaking Amish and Secret Princes and their spinoffs; she also greatly expanded the network’s Friday’s Bride Day programming thread. Winter, a longtime TLC marketing exec,  was named General Manager and EVP of the network in February 2011, replacing Eileen O’Neill when she was named Group President, Discovery and TLC Networks. Read More »

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Discovery Creates $500K Development Fund To Kickstart Global Series & Events

By | Friday August 23, 2013 @ 5:47am PDT

(Silver Spring, MD) Discovery Channel U.S. and Discovery Networks International (DNI) today announced the launch of a new Global Landmark Development Fund in the amount of $500,000 to fuel the next generation of groundbreaking epic series and landmark events. In its continued commitment to developing and producing the world’s most ambitious, highest quality programming, Discovery Channel and DNI are working in partnership to kickstart the creation of the next big breakthrough programs in science, adventure, history, engineering, natural history and more. The Global Landmark Development Fund will invest in the most impressive and daring ideas from the production community around the world.

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Discovery, Lionsgate Re-Making ‘North And South’ Miniseries

By | Thursday August 22, 2013 @ 10:16am PDT

Miniseries, limited series – whatever you want to call them – are so hot right now the industry is starting to dust off some of the old ones. Discovery Channel, for example, which just announced it has ordered a remake of North And South from Lionsgate. North and South is the name of an 1980’s trilogy of novels by John Jakes. ABC made North And South into a miniseries that aired in 1985 and which remains one of the highest rated miniseries in TV history, averaging just under 40 million viewers. It starred Patrick Swayze as a soldier from South Carolina, and James Read as a solder from Pennsylvania, who became BFF’s while attending West Point, only to find themselves on opposite sides in the Civil War. The star-studded cast also included Elizabeth Taylor, Kirstie Alley, Hal Holbrook as Abraham Lincoln – even Gene Kelly and Robert Mitchum got in on the act.

The miniseries in development with Discovery and Lionsgate will re-dramatize this storyline: George Hazard and Orry Main meet as young men at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, families become close, “shows the vastly different ways of life for the Main and Hazard families which threaten to drive them apart, fracture marriages and poison sibling relationships… put to the ultimate test as fathers, sons, brothers and friends fight each other on the battlefields of the deadliest war America has ever seen.” Read More »

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Shark Week Snaps Up Ratings Records for Discovery Channel

By | Tuesday August 13, 2013 @ 1:32pm PDT

EXCLUSIVE: When the dust settled, Discovery Channel’s Shark Week 2013 emerged as the most watched in the franchise’s 26-year history. An average of 2.12 million people watched Shark Week in primetime, Discovery says, and nearly 29 million unique viewers sampled the orgy of shark-dom. Sunday’s kickoff faux-documentary Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives survived the week as the most-watched program in the franchise’s history, with an average of nearly 5 million tuning in.

Shark Week was TV’s highest-rated franchise among 18-to-49-year-old guys last week, beating all cable nets and broadcast ones too — even NBC, with its returning NFL Sunday night preseason football. Overall, the franchise coughed up Discovery Channel’s best-ever week among 18-49. That’s because Shark Week programming bagged the highest-rated premieres in franchise history for their respective nights in the demo, starting with Megalodon on Sunday, Voodoo Sharks (Monday), I Escaped Jaws (Tuesday), Great White Serial Killer (Wednesday), Alien Sharks (Thursday) and Great White Gauntlet (Friday).

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Shark Week Continues Ratings Records Despite Opening-Night Outrage

By | Thursday August 8, 2013 @ 4:26pm PDT

The monstrous outrage over Shark Week’s opening-night fake documentary does not appear to have taken a bite out of the franchise’s performance. Wednesday, Great White Serial Killer clocked an average of 3.2 million viewers at 10 PM, to become Shark Week’s most-watched Wednesday program in the franchise’s 26 years. (Top Ten Sharkdown delivered 2.78 million viewers at 9.) Interestingly, Wednesday’s Serial Killer netted a bigger crowd than either of Shark Week’s Tuesday programs: I Escaped Jaws (2.71 million) and Spawn of Jaws (2.77 million).

Discovery’s Shark Week Facebook page was swamped Monday with self-described longtime viewers who raged against Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives – the opening-night premiere, in which actors playing scientists bloviated about the “return” of a monster shark that became extinct 1.5 million years ago. It appears that Shark Week fans are not regular viewers of Discovery’s Animal Planet channel, or they’d be wise to the whole fake docu programming thread that’s taking hold at the company. Just this past June, after Animal Planet’s fake docu, Mermaid: The New Evidence (a follow-up to its earlier fake docu, Mermaids: The Body Found) snagged  that network’s biggest haul in its history (nearly 4 million viewers), the mermaid show’s creator was promoted to oversee a newly created Original Content Group for Discovery’s whole company of networks. Read More »

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‘Shark After Dark’ Devours Cable Talk Rivals For 2nd Night; Discovery Tops Cable In Demo

By | Wednesday August 7, 2013 @ 3:55pm PDT

Think Discovery Channel is fazed by the backlash that greeted the fake Megalodon documentary that kicked off its Shark Week on Monday? Not when its new late-nighter Shark After Dark made chum … Read More »

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Shark Week Nets Biggest Crowd Ever In Opening, But Some Fin-atics Attack Kickoff’s Fake Docu

By | Monday August 5, 2013 @ 1:17pm PDT

EXCLUSIVE: Discovery Channel’s Shark Week clocked its biggest audience in its 26-year history Sunday night. Nearly 5 million “fin-atics”  (blame Discovery, not me) tuned in for the two-hour fake docu, Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives – not all of them happily. Megalodon was up 141% in the 25-54 demo compared to the same two hours of 2012. Later, Shark After Dark, Shark Week’s first ever late-night talk show, clocked 2.1 million viewers. Discovery noted this afternoon that Shark Week continues to dominate social conversation year after year. On Sunday, it was responsible for the #1 most social show  — Megalodon — across broadcast and cable, according to SocialGuide, beating the NFL Hall of Fame Game — and even Justin Bieber: Never Say Never! Shark Week conversation on Twitter grew 66%, year over year, in primetime and late night, and was responsible for nearly 1 million Tweets for the day.

Related: Discovery Harpoons Mark Cuban, Others For ‘Shark After Dark’

According to Facebook, Shark Week generated 3.4 million total interactions Sunday, and #SharkWeek was the top hashtag on the platform. Meanwhile, #Megalodon, Megalodon and #SharkAfterDark all trended worldwide on Twitter, in addition to #SharkWeek, Shark Week and #AirJaws trending in the United States. But a lot of that Facebook noise was not happy. Discovery’s Shark Week Facebook page on Monday was drowning in angry comments about Megalodon from some of those “fin-atics.” In keeping with this year’s more “humorous” approach to Shark Week, the network kicked things off with two-hour fake docu  –  which resembled those fake mermaid docus Discovery has run to record crowds. Read More »

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‘Sharknado!’ Star Ian Ziering To Stop By ‘Shark After Dark’

By | Sunday August 4, 2013 @ 6:59pm PDT

Sharknado! star Ian Ziering has been added to the guest list on Discovery Channel‘s first Shark Week after-show, Shark After Dark. Also signed: original Baywatch star David Hasselhoff, shark-diving WWE Wrestler Justin Gabriel, world-level surfer Laird Hamilton, as well as … Read More »

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Discovery Channel Harpoons Mark Cuban, Dominic Monaghan, Tara Reid For ‘Shark After Dark’

By | Thursday August 1, 2013 @ 8:08am PDT

EXCLUSIVE: Back when Shark After Dark was announced — from after-show impresario Michael Davies (The Talking Dead, Watch What Happens Live) and CBS late-night host/avid Shark Week fan Craig Ferguson — Discovery Channel said it was lining up guests for its first late-night Shark Week after-show who were Shark Week-passionate or had shark connections. Mark Cuban, of course, stars in ABC’s Shark Tank. Close enough. Lost fave Dominic Monaghan now stars in BBC America’s nature show, Wild Things With Dominic Monaghan which that network announced is returning for another season in 2014. And Tara Reid is enjoying a career resuscitation as one of the two-legged scenery chewers in Syfy’s flick/media darling Sharknado! which, in its third run on the network, snagged its biggest audience yet — 2 mil plus.

Related: Syfy Orders ‘Sharknado 2′ Read More »

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Discovery Channel To Debut Docu On White House Chief Of Staff On September 11

By | Wednesday July 17, 2013 @ 9:44am PDT

Not surprisingly, Discovery Channel announced this morning it will roll out its documentary from the Naudet brothers, in which they interviewed every living White House Chiefs of Staff, on Sept. 11. The two hour special will air for one hour that night and one hour the next night, at 9 PM ET/PT. Gedeon and Jules Naudet, you’ll recall, are the young documentary filmmakers who happened to be at the right/wrong place at just the right/wrong time when Jules accompanied members of the Engine 7, Ladder 1 firehouse in Lower Manhattan to the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001 and shot footage of American Airlines Flight 11 hitting the north tower of the center and the complex’s collapse. (He and Gedeon were working on a docu about the firehouse at the time.) That footage became the 2002 documentary 9/11 which was aired to acclaim by CBS. Read More »

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Syfy ‘Sharknado’ Attracts Average Of 1.369 Million Viewers – Mostly Journalists And Celebrities

By | Friday July 12, 2013 @ 1:00pm PDT

UPDATED, 1 PM: Hours after Syfy network announced it would repeat last night’s orgy of bad special effects and even worse acting known as Sharknado in response to the social media feeding frenzy it triggered, and word got out the network was mulling a sequel, Nielsen reported the movie was actually watched by an average of 1.369 million people.

In case you were one of the 312 million or so people in the country who did not watch, Sharknado, in round numbers, went like this: the ecological nightmare caused by global warming triggers a freak weather system that results in a mega tornado choc-a-block with angry sharks who sail through the air attacking innocent children and blondes, and causing to be uttered such lines as “they took my grandfather, so I really hate sharks.” The movie culminated in a mano-a-sharko scene, in which our hero Ian Ziering was swallowed by a flying shark but, happily, he had his chainsaw with him at the time; he sawed his way out, also rescuing the distressed damsel who’d earlier been consumed whole by same shark.

“Given the enormous popular demand, Syfy will present a special encore presentation of Sharknado on Thursday, July 18 at 7PM (ET/PT),” the network announced proudly this morning before the audience numbers came in.

Related: Syfy Teaser: Shark! Tornado! ‘Sharknado’!! Read More »

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Discovery Channel & Scott Free Developing Second Original Scripted Miniseries

EXCLUSIVE: Discovery Channel has ordered its second original scripted miniseries, about Scotland’s fight for independence from English rule in the 13th century. Scott Free Productions — the production house behind Discovery’s first original scripted mini, Klondike — is developing the new series chronicling William Wallace and Robert the Bruce’s bloody campaign for Scotland’s independence. The untitled project will be based on historical books by Nigel Tranter, including The Wallace and The Bruce Trilogy. Wallace, you’ll recall, was the title character played by Mel Gibson in the 1995 flick Braveheart. History wonks who did not look so favorably on some of the liberties taken with that Oscar-winning film, will like Discovery Channel’s rendition better, as it’s expected to stick more to the facts. Read More »

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Nik Wallenda To Talk Viewers Through His Canyon Walk On Sunday

By | Wednesday June 26, 2013 @ 10:47am PDT

Because aerialist Nik Wallenda did not get a chance to talk to Today B teamers Willie Geist and Natalie Morales while he was walking across the Little Colorado River Gorge for Discovery Channel last Sunday, he will … Read More »

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Discovery Star Nik Wallenda Won’t Get OK For NYC Walk, Says Police Commissioner

By | Tuesday June 25, 2013 @ 7:50am PDT

Presumably Discovery Channel would like to continue to do business with Nik Wallenda, after his live Sunday high-wire walk garnered good numbers for the network — weekly ratings came out this morning and Wallenda’s actual … Read More »

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Discovery’s Nik Wallenda High-Wire Walk Draws 13M

By | Monday June 24, 2013 @ 11:48am PDT

An average of 13 million people watched Nick Wallenda slowly walk a wire across the Colorado River Gorge while conducting a running dialogue with God and Jesus last night on Discovery Channel. “Oh, I praise you, Jesus. Lord, help this cable to calm down — command it,” the 34-year-old aerialist suggested a few yards into his quarter-mile “Skywire” stunt. Wallenda was not wearing a harness but had a microphone and two cameras — including one that looked down on the dry Little Colorado River bed and one that was focused dead ahead. Discovery telecast the ratings grab with a 10-second delay in the U.S. and a couple hundred other countries. The two-hour event delivered 8.5 million total viewers — jumping to 13 million during the actual walk.

Note to Wallenda: you might want to re-think the whole “no harness” thing, because the extra dange did not goose your ratings. They were on par with the numbers you clocked for your last made-for-TV high-wire act, crossing Niagara Falls for ABC. That stunt, which ABC aired last June, averaged 10.1 million viewers, peaking at 13.1 million viewers during the walk.

Anyway, Discovery noted this morning Sunday’s stunt shattered records across numerous platforms including social media, where Wallenda generated 1.3 million tweets becoming the #1 most social show across broadcast and cable in the U.S.

For comparison sake: during the 9:30-10 half hour, in which Wallenda was actually walking the wire and clocking 13 million viewers, ABC’s Whodunnit? logged 3.8 million people, CBS’s The Good Wife rerun snared 3.3 mil, NBC’s Crossing Lines bagged 4.2 mil and Fox’s American Dad repeat popped 3.2 mil.

Related: Nik Wallenda’s Historic Skywire Walk A Social Media Score For Discovery Read More »

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Nik Wallenda’s Historic Skywire Walk A Social Media Score For Discovery

By | Sunday June 23, 2013 @ 7:35pm PDT

Too bad social media wasn’t around in Evel Knievel’s day. Tightrope walker Nik Wallenda and his 1,400 foot “Skywire” scoot 1,500 feet over the Grand Canyon sans safety harness drew a flurry of online action for … Read More »

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