An 18-year Discovery veteran, Rita Mullin is moving up from her role as EVP Programming and Development at OWN to General Manager of Science Channel. The announcement was made today by Eileen O’Neill, Group President, Discovery Channel, Science Channel and Velocity, to whom Mullin will report. Her new position is effective June 2. “I am excited to call myself the newest member of the Science Channel team,” Mullin said. “I want to ignite people’s passions with the stories we have to share. Science is now. We want to capitalize on people’s curiosity for the unknown with thought-provoking programming, bold talent and out-of-this-world entertainment.”
EXCLUSIVE: Discovery Channel has decided to simulcast Science Channel’s first stab at scripted programming — the 90-minute The Challenger Disaster — when it premieres on November 16 at 9 PM, to ensure it gets the biggest possible audience and because the movie fits Discovery’s footprint. Discovery Channel this calendar year, is averaging 1.3 million viewers – 660,000 of them aged 18-49. Science Channel this year is averaging 304,000 viewers – 117,000 of them in the demo. When Science first announced the project in July, its GM Debbie Myers said it was the “biggest swing” in the network’s history. Produced in collaboration with the BBC and based on Dr. Richard Feynman’s memoir, What Do You Care What Other People Think?, the movie details Feynman’s participation in the Presidential Commission put together to investigate the Challenger explosion. William Hurt plays Feynman – the Caltech physicist/Nobel laureate who, in a televised hearing, demonstrated that the Challenger’s O-ring was not sufficiently pliable, submerging a piece of it in a glass of ice water, causing it to grow stiff and bend, and Feynman to note, “I believe that has some significance for our problem,” according to press reports. At the investigation’s conclusion, Feynman’s report, “Appendix F – Personal Observations on the Reliability of the Shuttle,” was presented to POTUS, independent of the commission’s report.
The Challenger explosion was one of those where-were-you-then moments in American history; millions of TV viewers watched in horror on January 1986 as the space vehicle burst apart, killing all seven astronauts on board, including the first teacher in space, Christa McAuliffe, who’d been added to the crew because space travel was considered that safe; she was going to provide terrific PR for the space program by teaching some classes to school children from space.
A mix of North American and British talent will topline an untitled BBC/Science Channel movie about the search for what caused the 1986 Challenger Space Shuttle explosion. William Hurt and Bruce Greenwood will star as physicist Richard Feynman and Air Force General Donald Kutyna, respectively. Feynman, a Nobel Prize winner who also assisted on the Manhattan Project, was instrumental in uncovering the truth, as was Kutyna whom he befriended in the process. Brian Dennehy is also on board as William Rogers, the chair of the presidential commission and Joanne Whalley will play Feynman’s wife. British actors Kevin McNally (Downton Abbey),
The joint-venture channels — OWN with Oprah Winfrey, and The Hub with Hasbro — aren’t included. What’s more, “there is not any specific content that Netflix is entitled to,” Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav told investors this morning at Goldman Sachs’ Communacopia Conference. He wouldn’t talk about the economics of the deal but says that they will “become apparent” the next time the company reports its quarterly earnings. He adds that while “we don’t know what’s going to happen with Netflix” — which is grappling with consumer fury after it raised prices 60% for those who want to stream video and rent DVDs –”right now we think that will not create an issue for us.” Here’s the release about Discovery’s new Netflix agreement:
Los Gatos, Calif. and Silver Spring, Md. — Netflix, Inc. and Discovery Communications today announced a two-year non-exclusive licensing agreement that allows Netflix members to instantly watch prior-season series and specials, including an expanded selection of additional seasons of popular series from Discovery, TLC and Animal Planet, as well as Investigation Discovery, Science and Military Channel. Among the highlights are Discovery Channel’s Man vs. Wild, TLC’s Say Yes to the Dress, and Animal Planet’s River Monsters and other titles from Discovery’s rich program library.
EXCLUSIVE: Sci-fi action-crime series The Sector, from Ridley and Tony Scott’s Scott Free Prods and Germany’s Tandem Communications, is no longer set up at Cinemax. There is talk about Discovery’s Science (formerly Science Channel) possibly picking up the action-crime series in the vein of Blade Runner and District 9 that centers on a commander of a paramilitary unit who pursues a dangerous new race of genetically-enhanced humans. I hear the search is underway for a writer to rework the script by The Sector creators Aaron and Matthew Benay. The Sector had been in development at Cinemax for several months with Simon Mirren attached as exec producer/showrunner and Anne Thomopoluos as executive producer when Tandem, Scott Free and Cinemax announced in April that the project was a go. There has been a discrepancy over the size of the network’s commitment, with some calling it a series order and others insisting it was a pickup of a pilot script and a bible. The commitment is now believed to be the latter, and Cinemax ultimately passed on the project as it already has one direct-to-series primetime drama, Strike Back, on the air; another, Transporter, in production; and a third, the Alan Ball-produced Banshee, which was developed at sister pay cable network HBO, eying a spring production start.
TCA: Discovery Sets Launch Date For Velocity, Adds Big Names to ‘Curiosity’, Preps Science Channel’s ‘Trek Nation’, Introduces ‘Weed’ Team
Ray Richmond is contributing to Deadline’s TCA coverage.
Discovery Communications announced this morning that it’s launching its new network Velocity Oct. 4 in an undetermined number of homes. It’s described as an upscale, male-skewed lifestyle network and is based on the global format Turbo TV, blending originals with acquired programming. The network also said that Robin Williams, Samuel L. Jackson and Brendan Fraser have joined the lineup of hosts for the Discovery Channel event series Curiosity that launches Aug. 7. The show, described as being dedicated to “capturing the sense of wonder” that humans have, will also feature Morgan Freeman, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Michelle Rodriguez and Morgan Spurlock. Also, the Science channel is partnering with Rod Roddenberry, son of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, for the feature-length special Trek Nation premiering fourth quarter of this year. The show explores the popularity and impact of the Star Trek franchise and includes interviews with George Lucas, J.J. Abrams, Stan Lee and others.
So here’s another reason to watch Discovery Communications’ Science Channel (How It’s Made marathons, anyone?), which today announced that it will shorten its name to Science and introduced an interactive logo that even has its own name: Morph. The channel, which is carried in more than 68 million homes, will debut the new brand on June 8 in conjunction with the Season 2 premiere of Through The Wormhole With Morgan Freeman. Here’s a few different looks at Morph: