Discovery Communications Upfront: April 3, 2014

Discovery Communications had a packed schedule for its Upfront presentation at NYC’s Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Frederick P. Rose Hall on Thursday. And there was star power aplenty, with everyone from OWN’s Oprah Winfrey to Ron Howard, announcing digital studio New Form, to TLC’s Alana “Honey Boo Boo” Thompson cheering from the sidelines (“Let’s get this party started!”).

Among the highlights:

Discovery Channel’s 2014-2015 Upfront slate boasted live events, including Everest Jump Live and Skyscraper Live with Nik Wallenda, natural history programs Girl Gang of Talia and Dolphin: Spy in the Pod, new series such as Tree People, American Muscle and Siberian Cut, and returning favorites like Deadliest Catch, Fast N’ Loud, Gold Rush, Naked and Afraid, Bering Sea Gold,Moonshiners and (of course!) cable’s longest-running programming event, “Shark Week.” The net will premiere all-motor themed Monday night programming with Motor Mondays, and is prepping scripted series The West with Executive Producer Robert Redford. And multi-platform, viewer interactive reality event Survival Live will feature eight survivalists streamed live 24/7 as they struggle to make their way back to society.

“I am excited about Discovery’s Upfront programming slate with even bigger live events, including our follow up to Skywire Live,” said Eileen O’Neill, Group President, Discovery, Science and Velocity networks. “The past year has been filled with history making live events, landmark original programming, scripted programs, compelling characters and amazing storytelling. Our next year will be epic.”

On track to have one of its best years ever, TLC is planning more than 500 hours of original programming in 2014, including 44 new and returning series – and “It’s all about heart and family,” said Discovery CEO David Zaslav.

Family-centered shows in the lineup include specials A Duggar Leaves Home and Kate Plus 8 Special (wt), as well as series (to name just a few) The Leah Remini Project (wt; the show proves “that real life is a lot funnier than fiction,” said Remini), real estate-set Listed Sisters (wt), reunion show Long-Lost Family and off-the-grid docuseries Risking It All. Added to the net’s wedding-themed programming are Curvy Girls Bridal and Heidi to the Rescue, while relationship series Psychic Matchmaker and The One That Got Away make their debuts.

Destination America’s slate of new programs includes an addition to its popular “Buying” franchise, Buying the Beach, which attract real estate, insurance and retail advertisers. “We have a ‘Buying’ episode on every week, a new episode on every week of the year,” said GM Marc Etkind, the network’s general manager. Buying The Beach is set to launch in 2Q14. Other upcoming series include competition series BBQ Pit Wars, Swamp Monsters and a special about the country’s most iconic landscapes, America the Beautiful. Hit series Hillbilly Blood, Monsters & Mysteriesin America and Buying the Bayou helped DA recorded its best quarter ever in Prime, with double digit growth for 1Q14 versus 1Q13 among all key demos.

Following its best year ever, Animal Planet, announced scripted as well as unscripted new series, including a two-hour retelling of Moby Dick – from the whale’s point of view; Martin Sheen hosts the BBC co-production. “We always are exploring new stories that both entertain and challenge how we view the natural world and our place in it,” said Marjorie Kaplan, group president, Animal Planet and TLC. Other upcoming series include Deadly Islands, exploring harsh conditions in remote areas; survivalist series Ice Lake Rebels; pool design series Poolmaster; carpentry docuseries Redwood Kings; six-part Rocky Mountain Bounty Hunters, and dog-training show My Tiny Terror (wt). Among a slew of specials are Last North, about polar explorer; true tale Revenge of the Whale (wt); and two-hour expedition Walking the Nile. Returning events: “Holiday Best Fest,” “Monster Week 3″ and Puppy Bowl XI.

After a record-setting quarter, Investigation Discovery unveiled a most-ever slate of 11 new series, and 22 returning shows. The net will produce over 700 hours of original content, including new shows Vanity Fair Confidential, in partnership with the magazine; mini-series Heartbreakers; crime show Young, Hot & Crooked; Momsters with Roseanne Barr (self-confessed ID addict Roseanne Barr was on hand to introduce it), and crime investigation teaser, Did He Do It?

Science Channel’s Upfront programming slate builds on the network’s most-watched year in primetime and total day in 2013, its most-watched primetime quarter in 1Q14, and its most-watched primetime month in March 2014. “Science has never been a bigger part of the social consciousness,” said Eileen O’Neill, “generating widespread buzz and conversation.” New shows at the net include the net’s second scripted film, Spies of Los Alamos; Craig Ferguson series I F-cking Love Science; Alien Universe with Brian Cox and My Life As a Satellite, first-person under-celebrated stories about NASA and the science of the universe.

There was lots of excitement – and red white and blue, and music – for American Heroes Channel, rebranded from Military. “There are so many stories about real heroes that are going to be on this network,” said David Zaslav, promising 17 new series ant specials. “It’s a great time for heroes.”

Velocity’s presentation followed a record-breaking 1Q14, in which the fast-growing brand for men had its top delivery quarter in net history in prime and total day across all demos. “Velocity is the home for automotive programming on television. But our viewers recognize that we offer much more than just cars,” said Robert Scanlon, GM, Velocity. “Our programming resonates with our audience because it evokes the timeless feelings of adventure, independence and freedom that you experience when you first get behind the wheel.” In addition to more than 300 hours of programming including 12 shows and seven all-new series, Velocity is now the exclusive television home of Barrett-Jackson, the world’s greatest collector car auto auctions. New shows include Crash!; comedic Wheels that Fail; car competition Versus; Junkyard Hustle (wt) and auto restoration show Wheeler Dealer USA (wt)

Toni Braxton’s not the only celeb headed for OWN, Oprah Winfrey announced. Justin Timberlake will appear in the fourth season of Oprah’s Master Class, along with Whoopi Goldberg, singer Tim McGraw, Robin Roberts, Lionel Richie, Vanessa Williams and Billy Bob Thornton.

But Winfrey said it is Belief, a television event exploring humankind’s search to connect with something greater than ourselves, “that made me want to put my name on a network.” The seven-part series premieres in 2015.

OWN ordered 20 eps of Single Moms Club (wt), from Tyler Perry, set to premiere in fall 2014, and added 20 new eps of hit series The Haves and the Have Nots (its March 11 show drew 3.6 million viewers), for a total of 56 through 2015, the cast, along with Perry, joined Winfrey onstage.

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