Discovery Canada taps into U.S. efforts

Brand extensions...

Brand extensions

Majority owned by Toronto-based Netstar Communications, Discovery Channel Canada’s only extensions are a Web site and program guide, but it still manages to give the impression of doing much more, thanks to spillover from U.S.-based 20% stakeholder Discovery Communications.

Exn.ca

Exn.ca, so named to prevent confusion with the Discovery U.S. site (discovery.com), focuses on content tied to @discovery.ca, the Canadian net’s locally produced flagship science TV show.

Program guide

Discovery Canada’s twice yearly program guide goes out to 350,000 people every September and January via subscription and newsstand copies of the Globe and Mail. The guide does not sell stand-alone advertising, but sponsors can make an appearance through value-added packages.

U.S.-based extensions

Bethesda, Maryland-based Discovery Communications has a huge line of educational and consumer products, including videos, books (about 20 adult and 30 children’s), puzzles, science kits, games, models, plush toys and gifts, much of which ties to network programming on science, history, technology and the animal kingdom.

Toronto-based Koch International is the exclusive Canadian distributor of the 300 Discovery Channel home video and DVD titles. Approximately 50,000 units are shipped yearly to Canadian stores such as HMV, Indigo, Chapters, Rogers Video and Blockbuster Video, says Beth Gibbs, VP of Koch Vision, the company’s video/DVD division.

Gibbs works directly with Discovery U.S., but says, ‘One of our goals this year is to work more closely with Discovery Channel in Canada to do TV campaigns that tie to retail as a way of building up the brand.’ One of those campaigns, she says, will tie in to the network’s Shark Week (and related videos) in the fall. Another, also in the fall, will be related to the release of three new Crocodile Hunter videos.

It has only been in the past year that non-video Discovery-branded merchandise has arrived in Canada, thanks to a launch in four of the seven newly opened Eatons stores. ‘We wanted to make a splash and we thought being in Eatons was a good way to introduce the Discovery line in Canada,’ says Catherine Goldner of Toronto-based CJG & Associates, a Canadian licensing agent.

Goldner, who works through the U.S.-based Discovery Communications International, says she will also soon be meeting with Discovery Canada to create synergies enabling her to gradually bring the merchandise to more retail outlets across Canada.

Strategy

‘Our Web site is an overall promoter of the network, but the brand extension is really for @discovery.ca, not the Discovery brand, which is promoted by Discovery U.S., and which we benefit from,’ says Steve Rayment, director of advertising and communications at Discovery Canada. ‘We wanted something unique that our resources could handle and wanted it very much to be what the Internet can be – interactive. So we decided to focus on the one show.’

Kim Airhart, director of communications for Discovery (U.S.) consumer products describes Discovery as a lifestyle brand. ‘It’s all about getting kids and adults excited about the world around them, and getting them to explore and satisfy their natural curiosity,’ she says.

Airhart says research shows that parents associate the Discovery brand with products that are intellectually stimulating as well as entertaining for both children and adults. ‘We create synergy in terms of our retail operation and on our Web site. When consumers see products in the marketplace, it reinforces their affinity for the Discovery brand and leads them back to the network.’

Results

Airhart says the U.S. network’s discovery.com Web site commands a 4.3% reach according to February’s Media Metrix numbers, attracting more than 3.6 million unique monthly visitors. The Canadian site, exn.ca, made over 855,000 impressions in the month of February.

The future

Discovery Canada plans to expand upon its Web site’s video offerings, while over at Discovery U.S., more Discovery retail outlets are on the way. Since 1996, the company has been concentrating on domestic expansion, purchasing the Nature Company outlets and aggressively converting them into Discovery Channel stores. Airhart says that in the next few years, the focus will be on international expansion, with retail outlets likely coming to a Canadian neighbourhood near you.

Buyers’ comments

‘Discovery has a short history in Canada and a long and proud history in the United States,’ says Scott Neslund, managing director at Toronto-based Starcom Worldwide. ‘Because their product is so pure, I believe it is easier for them to make the connections they are trying to with viewers.’ He gives Discovery Channel an overall rating of 4 out of 5 for its expansion efforts.

Noting that the brand presence is not as strong in Canada as in the States, Andrew Kumpf of Media Buying Services, also Toronto based, only gives it a 3 out of 5.