Discovery Wants Your Dog to Watch More TV

Photograph by Getty Images

Even the most faithful canine can only watch so much of the Kardashians. Realizing as much, Discovery Communications, the company behind Animal Planet, has bought an unspecified stake in DogTV, a two-year-old network created with U.S. canines in mind.

The channel broadcasts 24/7, splitting content into three categories: relaxation (think New Age music and a slow-pan of sleeping dogs), stimulation (chirping birds and wrestling puppies) and exposure (busy intersections, babies, postal workers, and such).

The target market is humans who feel guilty about leaving pets home alone, and the idea isn’t new. A similar product called Puppy Channel was launched in 1997 and still maintains a website. (This American Life produced a great radio profile of its creation.)

In August, however, DogTV closed its distribution deal with DirecTV, moving beyond Internet-only status. At the time, DirecTV estimated that half its 20 million customers are dog owners potentially interested in the channel.

To be sure, the market is huge. Some 43.3 million U.S. households have at least one dog. The challenge for the scruffy network is apparent and sizable: how to monetize? Dogs sit outside the 18-49 year-old demographic sweet spot that marketers home in on. Also, they are dogs.

So far, DogTV has gone with the HBO-model, charging a monthly subscription of $5 on DirecTV and $10 for online streaming. The channel may have advertising potential if it can get owners to watch, too.

Dan Fox, Discovery’s senior vice president of corporate development, says DogTV is “a natural fit.” Indeed, the offering has one attribute Discovery really likes: a lack of big-name stars. Every hit episode of X Factor or NCIS on competing channels brings a batch of sizable salaries. (Shakira isn’t cheap.) Discovery, however, focuses on non-fiction fare that skips such costs.

The folks on Discovery’s Deadliest Catch and My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding are a bargain relative to most TV talent—a big reason why the company realized a 19 percent net profit margin last year. There’s nothing mangy about that.

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