Discovery’s Sneak Attack

Despite constant ridicule for some of its ridiculous content, Discovery Communications has been a major success story in the past year.

Discovery Communications is taking all that snarky laughter about its programming straight to the bank.

The company, whose portfolio includes Discovery Channel, TLC, and Animal Planet, has been roundly mocked for the past few years. On TLC (formerly abbreviated for The Learning Channel) audiences have been introduced to shows like Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, Kate Plus 8, My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding, Cake Boss, Say Yes to the Dress, Sister Wives, The Little Couple, Sarah Palin’s Alaska, and of course now The Man With the 132 Lb. Scrotum.

The Discovery Channel, while producing mainstream fare like Cash Cab, Deadliest Catch, How It’s Made, and its all-around domination with Shark Week, has veered into fringe territory with shows like Naked & Afraid. It also faced heaps of criticism for its documentary suggesting that the giant prehistoric shark megalodon might still be roaming the ocean. This came on the back of sister channel Animal Planet airing faux documentaries about mermaids.

And yet the company is not only doing fine, it’s on fire. The megalodon film was the highest rated of Shark Week with 4.8 million viewers and a 2.6 in the demo. And Wall Street, which has never had much difficulty holding its nose if there’s money to be made, loves the company, as its stock price is up over 50 percent from a year ago.

The push from Shark Week also put the company’s combined ratings up 10 percent over the previous quarter, with only establishment behemoth Viacom posting better growth.

And the company is finally beginning to see strong growth out of OWN, its joint venture with Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Studios.

So while NBC with high-brow fare like Community and 30 Rock may be more appealing to the discerning critic, Discovery and its feast of low-brow entertainment will continue to cash in.