John Hendricks saw a void in the market, the lack of a network dedicated to broadcasting documentary programming. Hendricks first got the idea for a documentary television channel in 1975. His favorite television was documentaries about science, nature and history. He wondered why this type of programming couldn’t be available all the time. Hendricks idea was non fiction storytelling with great production values, drama and humor. He was inspired by miniseries such as Alistair Cooke’s “America” and Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos”. Documentary programming on PBS and network television had produced strong ratings in the past. However, he faced a number of skeptics who didn’t believe that a documentary channel could consistently attract big audiences. He was able to raise $5 million from investors to launch the Discovery Channel.
John Hendricks launched Discovery Channel in 1985 with a mission to satisfy curiosity and make a difference in people’s lives by providing the highest quality non fiction content, services and products that entertain, engage and enlighten; and he selected the globe to represent Discovery’s brand as a symbol of the company’s commitment to protecting and celebrating Planet Earth. John’s vision was that television could be a way of making people better physically, mentally and emotionally.
Hendricks did not describe Discovery as being in the cable business. He feared defining his brand in terms of a product or technology would be very limiting. Discovery’s Brand was built around the purpose of satisfying curiosity. By describing the Discovery Brand around fundamental human values, he opened many opportunities for potential growth. Discovery quest is to become indispensable by continually finding new ways to satisfy curiosity. Hendricks understands that viewers are smarter than most media outlets give them credit for. Discovery challenges it viewers by giving them something to think about. Discovery knows how to tell stories.
Today, Discovery is the world’s number one non fiction multi-channel media company. The company has built an impressive portfolio of brands including the Discovery Channel, TLC, Animal Planet, Science Channel, Investigation Discovery, Military Channel, Planet Green, Discovery Fit & Health, and Velocity. Discovery also has interests in Oprah Winfrey Network. In an addition to an impressive online presence, the company sells education materials to schools.
Discovery is a great example of how to build a successful brand by developing a consumer-focused purpose of helping people’s lives.
What is your favorite Discovery Channel program?