Discovery tries to bulk up with Fit and Health programming
Discovery Communications has discovered that there is an audience for health programming after all. Two weeks after shutting down the Discovery Health Channel to make room for the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), the Silver Spring, Md., media company said it would be moving much of the Discovery Health programming to its smaller cable channel FitTV. The channel -- which is available in about 50 million homes or about half of all U.S. households with cable or satellite TV -- will be renamed Discovery Fit and Health as of Feb. 1.
The idea to add more muscle to Fit with the orphaned Health programming -- "Medical Mysteries," "Dr. G: Medical Examiner" and "911: The Bronx" -- came in response to queries from Health channel viewers during the run-up to the launch of OWN. They didn't want to lose the Discovery Health channel.
"The Health channel audience was very loyal and stayed with their programming," said Laura Michalchyshyn, general manager of the Fit and Health channel. "We are now taking advantage of their interest."
Michalchyshyn said she saw this as "an opportunity to supercharge and supersize the Fit channel. We are going to create some new programming and bring new talent to the air. Our goal and strategy is to grow it in all areas."
Discovery did not disclose plans to migrate the programming until now, Michalchyshyn said, because "the company's priority was the OWN launch." On Jan. 1, OWN took over the channel space; it is currently available available in 80 million homes.
Discovery acquired Fit in 2001 from Fox, but it has never been a priority within the company. In recent years, the company received an occasional call from someone interested in buying the channel, but Discovery saw it as "beachfront" property ripe for development.
Michalchyshyn declined to discuss the programming budget for the small channel. It will retain its excercise-and-fitness bent in the early-morning hours, including "Bodies in Motion with Gilad," "Namaste Yoga" and "Shimmy." Much of the Discovery Health programming, including "Dr. G: Medical Examiner," "Plastic Surgery Beverly Hills," "I'm Pregnant and ..." and "Freaky Eaters," has already been moved into the Fit channel schedule.
It is available on Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications, DirecTV, Verizon FiOS and AT&T U-verse systems in Southern California.
-- Meg James