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Discovery discovers green programming doesn’t sell

Adriene Hill Apr 5, 2012

Sarah Gardner: Discovery is dumping its Planet Green cable channel; it was focused on the environment and sustainability. They’re replacing it with a new channel called “Destination America” on Memorial Day.

We asked Marketplace’s Adriene Hill to find out why polar bears and electric cars lost out to BBQs and roller coasters.

Adriene Hill: Planet Green’s lineup isn’t all global warming and how to reuse your old blue jeans.

Discovery has already started trying to attract a new audience. This week’s line up includes “Behind Bars,” “American Chocolate Championship” and “BBQ Pitmasters.”

“BBQ Pitmasters” clip: I’ve never had a turduken, but I know what they are.

So how’d we get from Bill Nye talking carbon footprints to stuffing turkeys with ducks and chickens?

Tom Umstead: It was an economics decision and a ratings decision.

Tom Umstead is an editor at Multichannel News. He says Planet Green attracts only around 150,000 viewers in primetime. Discovery can grab a million sets of eyes.

Umstead: It was laudable that Planet Green and Discovery tried to use Planet Green to promote a green lifestyle. But in the end, it’s a very niche audience.

And it turns out “niche” is a bad word in cable these days. Megan Mullen is author of “Television in the Multichannel Age.” She says the Internet has changed the cable landscape.

Megan Mullen: Cable was going to be the new way to serve narrow interests, and then along comes the Internet and it can serve just a couple people.

So “niche” networks have worked to broaden their appeal. For a good example, think about The Learning Channel, now TLC — it’s also a Discovery channel. It used to be all education; now it’s “Toddler & Tiaras” and “Say Yes to the Dress.”

Umstead expects cable channels will keep moving toward the mainstream in an effort to grab viewers and ad dollars.

I’m Adriene Hill for Marketplace.

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