Discovery Communications is an American mass media company based in Silver Spring, Maryland. The company was first established in 1985 as the owner of its namesake U.S. television channel, Discovery Channel; the company operates other major factual television networks in the United States as well, including Animal Planet, and TLC, along with other spin-offs of Discovery. It also owns or has interests in local versions of its channel brands in international markets, as well as other major regional operations such as Eurosport.
The company's namesake and flagship brand, Discovery Channel, first launched on June 17, 1985. In 1991, Discovery Channel's owners acquired The Learning Channel.
In October 1996, Discovery launched several new spin-off networks, including Animal Planet, and the digital cable channels Discovery Kids, Discovery Travel & Living, Discovery Civilization, and Science Channel. This was followed by the 1997 purchase of a 70% stake in Travel Channel, and the 1998 launches of Discovery en Español, Discovery Wings, and Discovery Health Channel. Also in 1998, Discovery acquired a stake in the struggling CBS Eye on People channel; Discovery eventually acquired the remainder of CBS's stake, leading to its January 1999 re-launch as Discovery People. The network quietly folded in 2000, being replaced by other Discovery channels on providers.
On September 1, 2001, Discovery Communications bought The Health Channel, and announced that it would be re-branded as FitTV. In 2002, Discovery re-launched Discovery Civilization as Discovery Times, as part of a joint venture with The New York Times. In June 2002, coinciding with Discovery's 17th anniversary, the company launched a 24/7 high definition channel known as Discovery HD Theater. In March 2007, Discovery sold its stake in Travel Channel back to Cox Communications, in exchange for the stake in Discovery that Cox owned. Cox would later sell the controlling interest in the channel to Scripps Networks Interactive in 2009. In June 2008, Discovery Home was replaced by Planet Green, a network devoted primarily to environmentalism and ecological living.
On January 15, 2008, Discovery announced that it had entered into a joint venture with Oprah Winfrey's Harpo Productions to re-launch Discovery Health as a new service, OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network, in 2009. In 2008, Discovery Times was re-launched as Investigation Discovery, a new brand that would be dedicated to true crime programs and documentaries. On April 30, 2009, Discovery announced a joint venture with Hasbro to re-launch Discovery Kids as a new youth- and family-oriented entertainment channel. The channel, ultimately named The Hub, launched on October 10, 2010. After multiple delays, OWN officially launched on January 1, 2011.
On March 17, 2009, Discovery Communications sued Amazon.com for infringement of patents in its Kindle e-reader line, regarding "secure distribution of electronic text and graphics to subscribers and secure storage". The patents were originally developed by Discovery founder John Hendricks, who had been developing technologies related to e-books and the digitization of television programs. While Discovery had divested the television-related patents, it retained the e-book patents. Amazon subsequently accused Discovery of violating a patent for an "Internet-based customer referral system"; The two parties settled in 2011.
On October 4, 2011, due to the wider implementation of high-definition feeds for mainstream cable channels, HD Theater was re-launched as Velocity, a new "upscale male" network focusing on automotive programming. On May 28, 2012, Planet Green (which had begun to abandon its original concept in 2010 due to poor viewership) was re-launched as Destination America.
In May 2014, Discovery and its shareholder Liberty Media acquired British television studio All3Media for $930 million in a 50/50 joint venture. The new ownership stated that All3Media would be operated as an independent company.
In October 2014, Discovery acquired controlling interest in The Hub (then Hub Network) from Hasbro and re-branded it as Discovery Family. In December 2015, Discovery launched Discovery Go, a TV Everywhere service offering access to live streaming and on-demand content from Discovery Communications' cable networks.
In May 2016, Discovery initiated a restructuring plan aiming to save $40 to $60 million by the third quarter of 2016, including a shift in strategy to "maximize" its linear television business whilst plotting larger investments in content, digital media, sports, and international markets. In August 2016, Discovery purchased a minority stake in the Hong Kong-based digital talent and content company VS Media; Discovery intended to have VS distribute Discovery Digital Networks content in China, and to offer their own resources to VS.
In October 2016, Discovery purchased a minority stake in Group Nine Media, a digital media holding company consisting of Thrillist Media Group, NowThis, The Dodo and Discovery’s digital network Seeker—for $100 million. The transaction gave Discovery an option to acquire a majority stake at a later date.
On July 31, 2017, Discovery announced it would acquire Scripps Networks Interactive for $14.6 billion, pending regulatory approval. On August 3, 2017, Discovery announced that it would contribute Velocity into a joint venture with the digital, live events, and direct-to-consumer businesses of automotive publisher TEN: The Enthusiast Network. Discovery will hold a majority stake in the venture; it will not include TEN's print brands, but there will be opportunities for cross-promotion.
Former NBCUniversal executive David Zaslav was named president and CEO on November 16, 2006.
In addition to Zaslav, current executives include:
Prior to September 18, 2008, DCI's ownership consisted of three shareholders:
On September 17, 2008, Discovery Holding Company completed a restructuring plan. Discovery Holding's Ascent Media business was spun off, and the remaining businesses, Discovery Communications, LLC and Advance/Newhouse Communications, were combined into a new holding company, Discovery Communications, Inc. The new fully public company and trades on the NASDAQ stock market under the symbols DISCA, DISCB, and DISCK. SEC filings are submitted by the Discovery Holding Company.
In May 2014, the company announced a special dividend of shares of the Company's Series C common stock payable to holders of record of the Company's Series A common stock, Series B common stock and Series C common stock as of the close of business on July 28, 2014. As a result of the dividend, each holder of a share of the Company's Series A common stock, Series B common stock or Series C common stock will receive one additional share of the Company's Series C common stock on or about August 6, 2014.
Liberty Global and Discovery Communications paid approximately $195 million for a 3.4% stake in Lions Gate Entertainment Corporation in November 2015. Discovery CEO David Zaslav joined the Lion's Gate board of directors as part of the acquisition.
DCI operates its businesses in the following groups: Discovery Networks U.S., Discovery Networks International, Discovery Studios Group, Discovery Digital Media, and Discovery Education.
There are 13 channels owned and operated by Discovery Networks U.S.
Discovery Networks International has five regional operations spanning Asia-Pacific, Central & Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa (CEEMEA), Latin America/U.S. Hispanic, Northern Europe, and Southern Europe, with regional headquarters in Singapore, Warsaw, Miami, London, Mumbai and Milan.
On December 21, 2012, Discovery announced it had acquired a 20% stake in the pan-European sports broadcaster Eurosport from TF1 Group for €170 million (US$221.6 million). On January 21, 2014, Discovery acquired an additional 51% share to gain controlling interest, and subsequently acquired the remainder for €491 million in July 2015 to receive sole ownership.
In April 2013, Discovery acquired SBS, the Nordic subsidiary of Germany's ProSiebenSat.1 Media, for US$1.7 billion. The deal made Discovery, based on combined revenue in 2012, the largest international broadcaster operating in Europe, overtaking Viacom.
In June 2015, Discovery Communications acquired pan-European rights to the Olympic Games from 2018 through 2024, excluding Russia, on all platforms, in a €1.3 billion deal. Discovery will primarily broadcast the Games on local outlets (including Eurosport), but will sub-license coverage to over-the-air broadcasters in each region.
In August 2016, Discovery renewed its distribution deals in 12 countries with shareholder Liberty Global. On January 31, 2017, after nearly facing a carriage dispute, Discovery renewed its distribution deals in Germany and the United Kingdom with Sky plc.
In November 2016, Discovery partnered with the streaming media company BAMTech to create a joint venture to serve Europe. In May 2017, ProSiebenSat.1 Media and Discovery announced a joint venture to create a German over-the-top content service, built upon its existing 7TV service.
Discovery Communications also operates Living Channel and Food TV in New Zealand.
On September 1, 2010, the Discovery headquarters were the site of a hostage taking; a lone gunman identified as James J. Lee, armed with two starter pistols and an explosive device, took three people hostage inside of the Discovery Communications headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, prompting an evacuation of the building. Lee's motive was believed to have been grounded in environmental activism. Lee had previously been arrested in 2008 while protesting in front of the same site. The National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) at the University of Maryland has since labeled the crime a terrorist attack.
The incident began at 1:00 p.m. ET, when 43-year-old James Jay Lee entered the building with two starter pistols and fired a single round at the ceiling of the lobby. The Montgomery County Police Department (MCPD) confirmed that Lee had an explosive device and was holding three people hostage in the lobby. The building was placed on lockdown and most of the 1,500 employees were evacuated. Children from a day care center inside were safely removed to a nearby McDonald's restaurant on Colesville Rd. Lee was shot dead by an MCPD SWAT team at 4:48 p.m. ET after the hostages made a run to escape. The remaining hostages were immediately freed. The incident was described by the FBI as the first instance of a would-be suicide bomber taking hostages in the United States.
James Jay Lee (c. 1967 – September 1, 2010) was an environmental protester who, in 2008, was given six months of supervised probation and fined $500 after he was arrested during a protest outside the Discovery Communications headquarters. Lee had published criticisms of the network in an online manifesto at Savetheplanetprotest.com, among which was a demand for the company to cease the broadcasting of television series displaying or encouraging the birth of "parasitic human infants and the false heroics behind those actions". His manifesto also railed against "immigration pollution and anchor baby filth", leading commentators such as Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center to decry Lee as an "eco-fascist". Lee's opinions were dominated by Malthusian analysis, though he also cited works ranging from Daniel Quinn's novel My Ishmael to former U.S. Vice President Al Gore's documentary An Inconvenient Truth. The Washington Post credited the Twitter community for initially breaking the story.