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Brand history: Discovery Channel

Today Outlook tells about another inspiring example of how a dream can become a lifetime project. Creation of one of the most successful channels in history of television – Discovery Channel, followed by a huge media empire Discovery Communications, simply cannot but motivate to own great engagements.

Nowadays it is hard to believe that Discovery with its annual turnover exceeding seven billion dollars, started slightly over thirty years ago as a small start-up at University of Alabama. It was there where Founding Father of the media corporation John Hendricks first studied and then worked at the turn of 1970s-1980s. 

Born in an ordinary American family, he was interested in two things since a child: science and cinema. And by science we mean the broadest sense of the word – Hendricks was engrossed with reading both historic memoires and back-then modern researches in physics, chemistry and computer studies. Upon graduating with a baccalaureate degree in history, he started working at audiovisual department of his native university, where his fancy for movies and popular science couldn’t have come in handier. It was doing this work – looking through thousands of various movies, both documentary and educational, purposely filmed for universities and schools – when John Hendricks realized, that he wanted to facilitate such content to the masses.

However it wasn’t at all easy for him to move in this direction because back in 1980s even very developed and bold American television didn’t offer its audience too many high-quality popular science shows. It was believed that there was no way they could compete with series, political projects of the Cold War era and feature films in terms of ratings. Therefore at first TV-moguls treated Hendricks’s suggestion to create a whole channel to broadcast educational projects skeptically. Still, United States wouldn’t be United States if they weren’t a country of opportunities. Hendricks kept looking for partners not only among TV-crowd but simply among those who could help with initial capital: seek and ye shall find. Successful investment company Allen&Company, engaged in everything but media business, put trust in the project by allocating 5 million dollars on its development.

June 17, 1985 became the day when television was changed forever – Discovery Channel went on air for the first time for its first 156 thousand subscribers. Hendricks and his team weren’t only professionals offering viewers highest-quality content from all over the world, best research movies and popular science films. They were also dare-devils showing truly worthiest stuff not being afraid of censorship. Coverage from Asian countries, African nature and Eastern European life – American television suddenly acquired a window through which to look at the entire planet. Audience of the channel grew by leaps and bounds and four years later it was watched not just in the United States but also in the United Kingdom and Scandinavian countries and yesterday’s skeptics queued hoping to invest at least something into the channel to become its part. Further history of the brand Discovery is a chain of victories and records because there are few channels able to boast of such reputations and quality of content for so many years. The channel itself that turned into a corporation and launched numerous subsidiary projects serves as a role model for others till now because nowadays it is watched in two hundred countries of the globe and number of subscribers rose beyond three billion a long time ago. Explorers of the media field distinguish 3 fundamental reasons for such success.

First – it’s the content, all the shows aren’t fictional because their scripts are dictated by life itself. The slogan of the channel – The World is Just… Awesome – reflects the idea of broadcasting in the best possible way. Filming in various nooks of the planet, unique scientific discoveries live on air, countries and peoples with distinctive color, anthemizing beauty of nature and might of human brain. Each season authors find things to surprise the audience with. Projects don’t lose their significance because they keep up with the times and cover current trends of our lives and things that millions care about. 

Second, Discovery is appealing because it is always in the lead when it comes to technologies. High-end equipment, amazing graphic and visual effects and large-scale experiments. While earning a great lot from subscription, the corporation invests significant share of resources into budgets of its projects that equal to Hollywood movies in terms of sound and picture. This is probably what primarily makes John Hendricks, who personally supervises production and takes active part in work of the corporation, different from majority of other media bosses whose main goal is to earn more and more money. Third success factor of no small importance is intelligent promotion. For instance, when Discovery comes to a new country and launches a new project there, very popular people of the region are often invited as hosts – actors, scientists, show business figures. Thus programs become not just boring muttering of unknown hosts about plant biology – they turn into full-fledged shows with charismatic faces in shot. Same is true about their commercial campaigns – trailers, teasers, virus videos – all the content that precedes a project is a premium-class product, thus, having watched commercials one is sure to develop a desire to watch the entire program. Fonts, prints, logos – everything is meticulously elaborated by modern designers therefore each new generation of viewers believes that the channel was launched just about yesterday while in fact it is already in its thirties.

John Hendricks still runs his creation and doesn’t even think of halting. He has new and new projects in mind, inspiration to them he draws all over the world. According to him, he doesn’t think of Discovery as his job because he simply does labor of love and does it in planetary scale: he used to present important popular science movies to students of one university and now he shares such content with entire world because this World Is Just… Awesome!

Photo: fullhdpictures.com, wallpapercave.com, static1.squarespace.com, si.wsj.net,

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