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The growth of Discovery in the UK

26 October 2011

Discovery has become an increasingly important source of commissions for UK factual producers in recent years, helping in some part to make up for the decline in orders from the terrestrials since the downturn.

In fact, its UK commissions have grown by 50% over the past year, according to Dee Forbes, president and managing director of Discovery Networks Western Europe (pictured).

Speaking at a Broadcasting Press Guild lunch today, Forbes stressed the importance of the UK market to Discovery, saying that it employed 770 people at its Chiswick Park HQ and invested over £200m a year in content and staff in the UK. “London is the most important hub outside the US,” said Forbes. “We work with over 70 production companies in the UK, and we want to work with more and more.”

Discovery recently hired former C4 head of programmes Julian Bellamy to spearhead growth in its international commissions, and several of his new shows are set to be announced this week. The broadcaster has just signed exclusive deals with Freddie Flintoff and James Cracknell to front documentaries next year.

The broadcaster operates 17 channel brands, from the male squewed Discovery Channel to the female aimed TLC which is currently rolling out around Europe.

The target audience of the Discovery Channel is, according to Forbes, known as “Discovery Man”.

Usually in his early forties, he’s married and has children and is ‘comfortably constrained’ in terms of his life. Whereas he might have spent time in the pub with his friends when younger, and is four times as likely to have owned a motorbike, he is now ‘happy with his lot’ at home but still has a thirst for life and experience.

Forbes said onscreen talent was increasingly important to help attract ‘Discovery Man’ to shows as well increasing co-viewing with his female partner, citing recent series Alone in the Wild featuring the likes of Freddie Flintoff and Joe Pasquale.

Fast turnaround docs on subjects such as the Norway massacre, the Haiti earthquake and the Japanese tsunami are also increasingly being commissioned. Discovery’s factual output, she said, had become more about entertainment and people - it’s now “more active and participatory.”

She said Discovery’s business in Europe had performed well this year, although there were signs of a dip in the ad market in the fourth quarter in the UK.

30% of Discovery’s international revenues come from advertising, and 70% from subscriptions.

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