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Bright Prospects for Discovery Communications

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Discovery Communications (DISCA - Get Report) has introduced new programming and a rebranded channel at the Television Critics Association semiannual press tour -- a gathering of writers who cover the TV industry.

The company owns the Discovery Channel, Animal Planet and TLC, and has joint ventures with Oprah Winfrey for the Oprah Winfrey Network and with Hasbro (HAS) for the Hub, a children's network.

At the TCA meeting, Discovery confirmed it is re-branding its Military Channel to American Heroes Channel beginning March 3. The move comes as the company focuses on more history-based, narrative-style documentaries. The launch comes with several new original shows that could provide a big boost in viewers and advertising dollars.

The channel's big original show will be called Against the Odds, with Rob Lowe serving as the narrator. The show is about soldiers on the battlefield, and to me, it represents bridging old military programming with current events. The show should also see some interest from women. The new American Heroes Channel should also consider a military homecoming show to try to attract more female viewers.

American Heroes Channel will be available in 62 million homes. Discovery says the channel will have 17 new series and specials in its first year, including four new shows that will air in the first week: Against the Odds, Raw War: The Lost Film of Dak To, CIA: Declassified and Codes & Conspiracies.

The channel's new name will mark the third name in the channel's history. When the channel began in 1999, it was known as Discovery Wings, a name it kept until 2005.

Discovery continues to see a boost from original programming. The company's namesake channel has seen strong ratings for its Gold Rush show. The Jan. 3 episode with 3.55 million viewers was the third most watched show on cable television that day, trailing only the Orange Bowl and the SportsCenter, both on ESPN. Another Discovery show -- Bering Sea Gold -- had 2.28 million viewers the same night.

Discovery is hoping to follow the success of Gold Rush with a six-hour, three-episode mini-series called Klondike.

Late in 2013, Discovery Communications was the subject of a rumor that it was buying out rival Scripps Network (SNI), the owner of the Food Network, HGTV, Travel Channel and Great American Country. Even without Scripps, Discovery has many brands, and it may find itself as the subject of deal rumors throughout 2014.

Analysts are predicting double-digit revenue growth for each of the next two fiscal years, and the shares -- which rose 38% last year and are now trading at around $84.50 -- could be headed to triple digits.


At the time of publication, the author had no position in any of the stocks mentioned.

This article represents the opinion of a contributor and not necessarily that of TheStreet or its editorial staff.

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