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Discovery Triples Threat

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Discovery Communications, which last year unearthed the formula for a successful Web video series, is set to triple its output in 2011.

After rolling out four well-received brand-sponsored originals in 2010, the cable conglomerate is planning to greenlight a dozen new series, all underwritten by advertisers.

Already on the docket are two renewals: the Hunt’s-sponsored Sauce Boss, which stars Buddy Valastro of TLC’s Cake Boss, and A Conception Story (pictured), sponsored by First Response. Discovery also is shopping Dog Park, a six-part reality series produced for AnimalPlanet.com, which tracks a group of New Yorkers who are regulars at a dog run, while TLC is pitching brands on Maternity Leave, a series chronicling a group of new mothers using Web or Flip cameras. They include a mom with multiples and one with a challenged child.

Discovery’s original Web efforts are thriving in a sector riddled with poorly executed concepts, overzealous branding efforts and lots of churn. But the network’s executives say Discovery has several advantages, including a dedicated digital studio, which allows it to maintain series ownership and wide distribution, including a YouTube presence.

“Video for us is always part of something larger,” said Gabe Vehovsky, evp, strategy and client solutions, Discovery Digital Media. Vehovsky noted that his team executed 40 different custom Web campaigns for brands, many of which include video elements—meaning there were lots of promotional opportunities for original series.

Discovery also has tapped its human-interest reality TV expertise, said Jane Barasch, managing partner, strategic planning director, Maxus, which implemented First Response’s sponsorship. “We were looking for a partner with a high level of production quality,” she said, “and we didn’t want an infomercial.”