TEXT OF INTERVIEW
Bob Moon: Attention, all you armchair environmentalists: Discovery Communications is launching a new cable and satellite TV channel this week. It’s aiming to “take green to the mainstream.”
This new environmentally conscious network will be known as Planet Green and since it’s replacing the Discovery Home channel, it’ll be available starting Wednesday in 50 million homes. That’s almost half the nation’s cable or satellite customers.
For more on this, we’re joined by Brian Stelter, who writes about the media for the New York Times.
Thanks for joining us.
Brian Stelter: Thank you.
Moon: What is this channel about? When they say that they’re “Planet Green,” what does that mean exactly?
Stelter: Well, Planet Green is designed to be everything about the environment, from recycling shows to news shows, to reality shows staring musicians. Discovery Channel is making a big bet that environmentally-themed programming can also be entertaining.
Moon: Well, the big question also is not just entertaining, but can it bring in dollars, can it bring in an audience? How have advertisers responded?
Stelter: The signed General Motors, the maker of the Hummer, as one of their premier sponsors…
Moon: Woah, woah, woah, hold on. General Motors, the maker of the Hummer, is going to be advertising on a green channel?
Stelter: You can imagine there are companies like that that have environmentally friendly messages they want to get across. Discovery says “We want everyone to be a little better, not necessarily perfect,” so they’re trying to appeal to people who are interested in the environment, but are not the activists that these programs have normally attracted in the past.
Moon: You mention General Motors as one advertiser here. What are some of the other advertisers?
Stelter: General Motors is the first premier sponsor the network has announced, but they’re also in talks with companies like
SC Johnson, the makers of Raid and other home products — not always seen as the most environmentally friendly kind of products, but they point out they’ve made great strides in trying to cut down the environmental impacts of their products.
Moon: It seems to me that this would be perhaps good for an advertiser’s image — whether or not they have a particular green message — just to be associated with this channel.
Stelter: Certainly. Discovery says that this network is optimistic. It’s supposed to be advocating for the environment, but it’s not supposed to be preachy, because they’ve realized that the past programming about the environment, the kind of programming that Discovery innovated with 20 years ago with nature documentaries, is sometimes perceived as preachy by some viewers. So they’re trying to make it more entertaining, they’re trying to make it more optimistic and I think advertisers would want to be associated with that kind of content. I spoke to one cable executive who said, “Whether you’re an automaker or a bank or a petroleum company, somewhere in your marketing plan is something referring to the environment.” All of these companies now see that the environment is in vogue. The media is covering climate change more and more and they have to respond to that with marketing messages.
Moon: Well, in vogue in the media, but I presume that we’re going to find out whether there are enough viewers to make this worthwhile.
Stelter: We sure are. This is the highest profile cable launch of the year, but there’s never been programming like this before. We’ve never seen Ludacris and Tommy Lee on a green reality show. We’ve never seen Hollywood coverage of green subjects. So it’s really a wait and see issue to see whether the ratings will improve at all.
Moon: Brian Stelter writes about the media for the New York Times. Thanks for being with us.
Stelter: Thank you.
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