Discovery’s Multi-Network Slate Covers a Lot of Turf

Pre-upftont news offers Wallendas, whales, wheels and the West

In advance of this afternoon's upfront presentation, the Discovery networks, which include The Discovery Channel, TLC, OWN, Animal Planet, The Hub, Velocity, ID and several others, are all announcing programming deals. Keep checking this post throughout the day for updates. Okay, so (deep breath):

  • Discovery Communications, the parent company, is creating a new production studio called New Form headed by Kathleen Grace. It will partner "with key distributors and brands;" if you want a clue to what that means, take a look at Grace's resume: her last port of call was YouTubeSpace LA, the Los Angeles production studio where YouTube's video creators produced, attended workshops and used YouTube-provided facilities. Expect to see close collaboration between New Form and Discovery's relatively recent acquisition, Revision3. (Of course, in web time, it was eons ago. Remember when you could buy a web studio for a mere $30 million?) Brian Grazer and Ron Howard have financial stakes in the company.
  • Velocity is going to try to corner the rich old guy market on this one: the moneyed-male cabler is now the exclusive TV destination for Barrett-Jackson, car auctioneers extraordinaire. So much of the programming in this new niche (which also includes H2 and Esquire) is automotive-based that this is a serious get—and the auction house needed a new home after Speed became FS1, as an eagle-eyed reader points out in the comments below. Starting in January 2015, Velocity will devote 100-plus hours of coverage to every Barrett-Jackson auction.
  • The Discovery Channel and TLC will start broadcasting in Spanish this May. The networks cited as shows that drew large Hispanic audiences TLC’s The Little Couple, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo and Long Island Medium; and Skywire Live: With Nik Wallenda, Naked and Afraid and North America on Discovery.
  • Animal Planet is diving into scripted territory with Revenge of the Whale in what is looking like a whale-heavy fall. Between Revenge (a version of Moby-Dick from the great white whale's POV, starring Martin Sheen and co-produced with the BBC), and the return of Whale Wars , there's also a documentary on poaching called The Yao Ming project (working title).
  • OWN will kick off a new season of Oprah's Master Class with Justin Timberlake, among other high-profile interviewees; also on the network will be a two-night miniseries called Tulsa featuring Oscar-winning The Help star Octavia Spencer. New series on the network include a show about religion, called Belief, premiering next year, and a new Tyler Perry show launching in Q3 of 2014 called Single Moms Club.
  • Discovery proper will air another Nik Wallenda special, a follow-up to Wallenda's high-rated broadcast last year, Skywire (the new special is called Skyscraper). Robert Redford and Laura Michalchyshyn will produced The West, a sweeping scripted drama spanning historical milestones of the second half of the 19th century. New reality series follow a logging operation in Siberia (Siberian Cut) and an auto racing show starring a gentleman notable for his girth (and presumably his temper) entitled Fat 'n' Furious.
  • TLC will be revisiting several of its old series with a new show called A Duggar Leaves Home and a special called Kate Plus 8. The network is also playing up wedding-themed programming.
  • Investigation Discovery has a new partnership on the books: Vanity Fair Confidential, a show about the rich and famous with glossy magazine Vanity Fair. Self-explanatory titles across the slate include Momsters: When Moms Go Bad, Did He Do It? and Young, Hot & Crooked.
  • The Science Channel is bringing a show called I F-ing Love Science to television after an already-successful online partnership with the I Fucking Love Science social platform (Test Tube, Science's digital sister net, produces IFLS's YouTube show). Off the network's scripted special about the Challenger disaster last year, the network will air a new TV movie about the development of nuclear weapons called Spies of Los Alamos.