Discovery is tearing down the solar panels and raising the American flag. As long expected, Discovery will recycle its failed eco-channel Planet Green on Memorial Day in favor of the new patriotic-themed network "Destination America."
According to Discovery, Destination America "will be the first network to celebrate the people, places and stories of the United States, emblazoned with the grit and tenacity, honesty and work ethic, humor and adventurousness that characterize our nation."
The network, available in around 59 million homes, launches Monday, May 28. Discovery, perhaps sensing that some might characterize the shift as an ideological one (from a left-leaning environmental focus to a right-leaning patriotic one) took pains to say that the change wasn't motivated by any such beliefs. "America may be divided by politics, but we are united by our love of country," says Destination America president and general manager Henry Schleiff. "As a network inclusive to all, Destination America will celebrate this connective spirit by curating the common ground among us."
Planet Green has operated as a ghost network over the past year, running repeats of fare from other Discovery networks. Planet Green launched with much fanfare (and a $50 million programming budget) in 2008, replacing Discovery Home channel. But its programming was ultimately deemed too narrow, and perhaps better suited for a programming block rather than an entire channel. An attempt to broaden Planet Green with more lifestyle shows like The Fabulous Beekman Boys also failed. Discovery has also struggled more recently to gain traction with the launch of the Oprah Winfrey Network and kids-centric The Hub, its partnership with Hasbro.
Earlier this year, TV Guide Magazine reported that Discovery execs were considering a lifestyle channel that would focus on food and travel; Destination America will indeed zero in on both. And unlike other recent Discovery launches, the company appears to be taking a low-key approach to the launch of Destination America, announcing only a handful of new shows. Much of Destination America's programming will likely continue to be borrowed from other Discovery nets.
Inaugural programming will include a new season of BBQ Pitmasters, which formerly aired on sister network TLC. The grilling competition, which travels to cities like Memphis and Austin, will air a sneak peek on Wednesday, May 30 and then air regularly on Sundays at 9/8c.
Fast Food Mania, hosted by Jon Hein, will look at how American-style fast food has conquered the world. The show will air Sundays at 10/9c. Another eating show, United States of Food, hosted by chef Todd Fisher, debuts on Sunday, July 8.
Other Destination America programming includes Super-Duper Thrill Rides, which looks at the best extreme roller coasters in the U.S. and around the world (Saturdays at 10/9c starting June 16) and Cheating Las Vegas, chronicling casino gambling scams, debuts on Saturday, July 14. The archaeology-themed Ghost Town Gold joins the network in August.
Destination America will also launch an iPhone app that will feature suggestions on attractions and allow users to share their favorite U.S. destinations. "Our research, coupled with my own experience developing shows about America over the last 20 years, has shown that viewers have a huge appetite for content focused on our unique culture and spirit," says Destination America senior vice president for content strategy Marc Etkind.