Discovery Channel (known as The Discovery Channel from 1985 to 1995, and often referred to as simply Discovery) is an American multinational pay television network and flagship channel owned by Discovery, Inc., a publicly traded company run by CEO David Zaslav. As of June 2012, Discovery Channel is the third most widely distributed subscription channel in the United States, behind TBS and The Weather Channel; it is available in 409 million households worldwide, through its U.S. flagship channel and its various owned or licensed television channels internationally.
It initially provided documentary television programming focused primarily on popular science, technology, and history, but by the 2010s had expanded into reality television and pseudo-scientific entertainment.
As of September 2018, Discovery Channel is available to approximately 88,589,000 pay television households in the United States.
John Hendricks founded the channel and its parent company, Cable Educational Network Inc., in 1982. Several investors (including the BBC, Allen & Company and Venture America) raised $5 million in start-up capital to launch the network.
The Discovery Channel began broadcasting on June 17, 1985. It was initially available to 156,000 households and broadcast for 12 hours each day between 3 p.m. and 3 a.m. About 75 percent of its program content had never been broadcast on U.S. television before. In its early years, the channel’s focus centered on educational programming in the form of cultural and wildlife documentaries, and science and historical specials. It also broadcast some Soviet programming during this time, including the news program Vremya. In 1988, the channel premiered the nightly program World Monitor (produced by The Christian Science Monitor). In 1988, The Discovery Channel debuted an annual programming stunt called Shark Week, the week-long event eventually gained in popularity starting in the 1990s and continues to be shown each summer on the channel to this day. By 1990, the channel was available in over 50 million households.
The channel began to shift its focus in the early 2000s to attract a broader audience, by incorporating more reality-based series focusing on automotive, occupations, and speculative investigation series; though the refocused programming strategy proved popular, Discovery Channel’s ratings began to decline by the middle of the decade. The drop in viewership was widely attributed to an over-reliance on a few hit series, such as Monster Garage and American Chopper. Some critics said such shows strayed from Discovery’s intention of providing more educationally based shows aimed at helping viewers learn about the world around them. In 2005, Discovery changed its programming focus to include more popular science and historical themes. The network’s ratings eventually recovered in 2006.
On January 4, 2006, Discovery Communications announced anchor Ted Koppel, executive producer Tom Bettag and eight other former staff members from the ABC newsmagazine Nightline were joining Discovery Channel. The network was nominated for seven Primetime Emmy Awards that year for shows including The Flight that Fought Back (a documentary about the hijacking of United Airlines Flight 93 during the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001) and Deadliest Catch (a reality series about a group of seafood fishermen).
In 2007, Discovery Channel’s top series included the Emmy Award- and Peabody Award-winning Planet Earth, Dirty Jobs, MythBusters, and Deadliest Catch. Discovery Channel’s 2008 lineup included Fight Quest and Smash Lab.
On September 1, 2010, 43-year-old James Jay Lee entered the Discovery Communications headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, armed with a handgun. Lee fired at least one shot and held several employees hostage; he was later shot dead by police. Lee had published criticisms of the network at Savetheplanetprotest.com.
In December 2015, Discovery Communications launched its TV Everywhere service, Discovery Go, which features live and video-on-demand content from Discovery Channel and eight of its sister networks.
Main article: List of Discovery Channel original programming
Programming on the flagship Discovery Channel in the U.S. is primarily focused on reality television series, such as speculative investigation (with shows such as MythBusters, Unsolved History, and Best Evidence), automobiles, and occupations (such as Dirty Jobs and Deadliest Catch). A popular annual feature on the channel is Shark Week, which airs on Discovery during the summer months.
Discovery has also featured documentaries specifically aimed at families and younger audiences. Other popular programs have included How It’s Made, Cash Cab, and Man vs. Wild.
Pro Cycling Team
Main article: Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team
Shortly before the 2004 Tour de France, Discovery Channel announced it would become the primary sponsor of a professional bicycling team starting in 2005, featuring the then-seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, whose wins were voided after he was proven to have cheated via doping. After the 2007 victory with the Spaniard Alberto Contador, Discovery Channel discontinued the cycling sponsorship.
Discovery Channel Radio
Discovery Channel Radio was a radio network whose programming consisted of audio versions of popular programs from the Discovery Communications family of television channels. Discovery Channel Radio was previously carried by XM Satellite Radio, until its removal from the provider in early September 2005. Sirius Satellite Radio dropped Discovery Radio from its lineup on February 21, 2007; it was also carried on both of Canada’s major satellite radio services.
This article is about the US chain of stores. For the former gadget store chain in the United Kingdom, see The Discovery Store.
Discovery Channel lent its brand to retail stores in malls and other locations across America, and to an online store. The store’s specialty products were educational gifts, videos, books, CD-ROMs and educational kits, most of which were manufactured with the Discovery Channel brand name.
The Discovery Channel stores first opened in 1995. By 1997, the chain had 17 US and 1 UK stores. At that time, the chain was building a Washington, DC flagship store with three level themed to various environments, sea & underground, land and outer space, aviation & science to be opened in February 1998 with another flagship store in San Francisco to be opened in November 1998
On May 17, 2007, Discovery Communications announced it would close its standalone and mall-based stores. Hudson Group will continue to operate the Discovery Channel Airport Stores, and the website remains in operation.
Main article: Lowell Discovery Telescope
Discovery Channel funded the construction of the Lowell Discovery Telescope, in partnership with Lowell Observatory.
Discovery.com is the Discovery Channel’s official website, which primarily provides information on the channel’s programming and additional content, including games, tied to those shows.
Marketing and branding
The logo of Discovery Channel from 1987 to 1995.
The Discovery Channel’s first logo was a television screen picturing a map of the world. For two decades, starting in 1987, the channel’s logo incorporated the Discovery wordmark rendered in the Aurora Bold Condensed font with a circular shape in front of it. The circle usually took the form of a rising sun, or an animated version of the Vitruvian Man. Discovery Channel’s previous slogans had been “Explore Your World” and “There’s No Thrill Like Discovery.” Keeping with its changing focus away from strictly educational programming toward reality TV, the slogan was changed in the early 2000s to “Entertain Your Brain”.
In 1995, the channel’s name was simplified to “Discovery Channel”, dropping “The” from its name. A globe became a permanent part of the logo, and an underline was added to the bottom of the logo. During this time, the company started expanding and launched several new networks. Many of the sister networks used logo designs similar to the one used by Discovery, often incorporating the globe and using the same typeface. Networks that had logos based on Discovery’s included Animal Planet, Travel Channel, Discovery Science, Discovery Wings and Discovery Home & Leisure.
With its shift to reality-driven programming in the 2000s, Discovery introduced the slogan “Let’s All Discover”, with promos featuring the line being completed with a phrase relevant to the program (such as for MythBusters, “…why no myth is safe.”).
On March 31, 2008, Discovery unveiled a new logo, which took effect on-air on April 15, 2008 (coinciding with the fourth season premiere of Deadliest Catch). The new logo was designed by Viewpoint Creative, and integrated Discovery’s long-time globe iconography into the “D” lettering of the wordmark, creating a monogram that was usable as a standalone icon. The launch was accompanied by a new advertising campaign, “The World is Just Awesome”, which featured scenes of Discovery personalities singing an adapted version of the song “I Love the Mountains”. Discovery Channel president John Ford explained that the campaign was intended to “showcase our earned place in the greater pop culture landscape”.
In August 2013 (coinciding with Shark Week), the aforementioned monogram became the main on-air logo as part of a new imaging campaign, “Grab Life By the Globe”, which was designed to emphasize the channel’s current focus on personality-driven programming. The logo was portrayed in promos with visual effects relevant to their respective program.
On April 1, 2019, Discovery unveiled a new logo, maintaining a refreshed version of the previous globe and D monogram. The new branding is accompanied by another new imaging campaign, “The World is Ours”, which features scenes of Discovery personalities singing the Blue Swede version of “Hooked on a Feeling”. The static version of the globe icon uses a non-standard projection that shows all continents, reflecting Discovery’s presence as an international brand.
Discovery Channel reaches 431 million homes in 170 countries. Discovery Communications currently offers 29 network brands in 33 languages. In a number of countries, Discovery’s channels are available on digital satellite platforms with multiple language soundtracks or subtitles including Spanish, German, Russian, Czech, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Bengali, Dutch, Portuguese, Italian, Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, Finnish, Turkish, Greek, Polish, Hungarian, Romanian, Arabic, Slovene, Japanese, Korean and Serbian. In Bulgaria, Discovery has, since 2000–2001, displayed Bulgarian subtitles by all cable providers and since 2010 – with Bulgarian dubbing for some shows.
Main article: Discovery (Canada)
The Canadian version of Discovery was established in 1995, and is currently owned by a joint venture between Bell Media (via the subsidiary CTV Specialty Television; ESPN Inc. is a minority partner in this subsidiary due its ties to sports channel TSN) and Discovery Inc.
The channel airs similar programming to its U.S. counterpart, but also airs domestically-produced programs to comply with local broadcasting regulations (which, in the past, included the daily science newsmagazine Daily Planet cancelled in 2018). Some of its original series (such as, most prominently, How It’s Made) have been picked up in the U.S. by Discovery’s sister networks (such as Science Channel), but others have not necessarily aired on Discovery’s networks. Since 2018, the channel has increasingly aired blocks of fiction programming with science- or technology-oriented themes.
Main article: Discovery Channel Europe
In the United Kingdom, Discovery Channel UK airs some common programs as the U.S. version, including MythBusters, American Chopper, How It’s Made and Deadliest Catch. The channel is carried as a basic subscription channel on the SKYdigital satellite service and digital cable provider Virgin Media. Discovery UK also operates Discovery HD, Discovery Knowledge, Discovery Turbo, Discovery Science, Animal Planet, DMAX, Discovery Real Time, Discovery Home & Health, Discovery Travel & Leisure and Discovery Shed. Many of these channels also have timeshifted versions. In the Republic of Ireland, the UK version of Discovery Channel is available on most cable providers in that country, but with local advertisements.
In Germany, Austria and Switzerland, Discovery Channel is part of the Premiere digital network and supplies specific programs to other networks like ZDF and kabel eins. Discovery Communications is also owner of the documentary-channel XXP. The channel was bought in the spring of 2006 from its former shareholders Spiegel TV and “dctp”. All programs are dubbed into German. The channel is now known as “DMAX”, presumably to associate the channel with Discovery.
In the Netherlands, the Discovery Channel is included on most cable, IPTV and DVB-T providers. Nearly all of the programs are broadcast in their original language, but they are subtitled in Dutch as is the policy of all Dutch television stations. Some programs and most promotions and program announcements have a Dutch voice-over. In Flanders, the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium, a Flemish Discovery Channel launched (previously the Dutch version was available for IPTV, DVB-C and DVB-S) on cable (and digital) television on October 1, 2009.
In Italy, the Discovery Channel (and HD) is distributed via satellite by Sky Italia as part of the documentary pack. In addition, Italy has four Discovery-branded channels: Discovery Science, Discovery Real Time, Discovery Animal Planet and Discovery Travel and Living.
In Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Croatia, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Serbia and Slovenia, Discovery Channel is carried by most cable television and IPTV providers with all the content subtitled in the respective languages. Additionally, it is also available on digital satellite platforms in Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia (sometimes requiring an additional fee). In Poland, nc+ broadcasts the programs dubbed in Polish and in original English. A few other channels from Discovery are also in offer, like Discovery Historia, launched in cooperation with Polish broadcaster TVN, which later ended.
In Spain, the channel shares a schedule and programs with Portugal and is available on most satellite and cable platforms, making it possible to broadcast both in Spanish and Portuguese. In Spain, all programs are dubbed; whereas in Portugal, most of them are subtitled. In addition, Portugal has three Discovery-branded channels: Discovery Turbo (focusing on motorsports), Discovery Science (focusing on science and technology) and Discovery Civilization (focusing on historical events). These channels follow the same model as the original Discovery Channel, except for the absence of advertising. Spanish advertisements are broadcast on the Portuguese feed, non-subtitled or dubbed.
Australia and New Zealand
Main article: Discovery Channel (Australia and New Zealand)
In Australia, the Discovery Channel is part of a six-channel package (not including timeshifts) on digital subscription television, available on Foxtel, Optus TV and AUSTAR.
In New Zealand, the Australian version of Discovery is broadcast on SKY Network Television.
Main article: Discovery Channel (Southeast Asia)
In South East Asia, Discovery Channel is available on digital subscription television. Discovery Channel Asia still shows crime programs (such as Most Evil and The FBI Files). Many programs feature development and society in Asian countries, especially in India and China. Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore have other channels branched from the main Discovery Channel, including Discovery Turbo, Discovery Science, Discovery Home & Health and Discovery Travel & Living.
The Philippines has its own semifeed derived from the Southeast Asian channel, in which offers regional variations with local advertisements during the commercial breaks.
Main article: Discovery Channel (India)
Discovery Channel was launched in 1998 in India broadcasting originally in English and Hindi. In June 2010, a Bengali audio track was added to the channel as well as a Telugu track in October 21 of that same year. On August 15, 2011, a separate Tamil-language channel was launched with an estimate audience of 10 million households. Discovery recently launched Discovery Plus, a new streaming service for India priced at ₹300 per year, offering content in eight languages—English, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, Bengali and Marathi.
In South Africa, Discovery Channel shares a schedule and programming with all of Africa, the Middle East and Turkey. Discovery Channel and sibling channels Discovery World, TLC, Investigation Discovery and Animal Planet are available on the DStv/Multichoice platform.