PASADENA, Calif. — Discovery Communications executives thought of Facebook when considering what the new Discovery Life network would be about. Specifically, all of the Facebook friends who write about their fabulous jobs, fabulous families and fabulous vacations.
"We think the interesting things happen between the Facebook posts," said Jane Latman, general manager of Discovery Life.
Discovery Life switched on Thursday on cable and satellite systems. The connective thread behind its nonfiction programming is what happens when life throws you a curveball, she said.
The new network replaces the Discovery Fit & Health network, which has shut down. Nothing against fitness and health, but the bottom-line focused Discovery folks found that people who wanted information about those topics tended to turn to the Internet instead of a television network.
"We are opening the doors wider," Latman said. "It gives us the opportunity for more breadth on the network and removes the barrier that Discovery Fit & Health had become — a sort of 'eat your broccoli' network."
Discovery has specialized in such repurposing. Since 2011 alone, it has shut malingering networks to create Oprah Winfrey's OWN, Destination America, Velocity, Discovery Family and the American Heroes Channel. The most successful has been Investigation Discovery, which replaced the Discovery Times Channel in 2008.
Latman works with Henry Schlieff running ID and is bringing the same flair for eye-catching show titles and programming ideas to Discovery Life.
Take the new series premiering Thursday with Irish daredevil Baz Ashmawy, who brings his 70-year-old mother along on some adventures like skydiving and alligator wrestling. Its title? "50 Ways to Kill Your Mother."
The new "Outrageous Births: Tales From the Crib" is about new parents whose babies arrive under unusual circumstances — during a hurricane, at a wedding or on the cab on the way to the hospital.
Author and parenting expert Lenore Skenazy, once criticized publicly for allowing her 9-year-old son to take the New York City subway alone, turns the tables with stories about overprotective parents on "World's Worst Mom." The series "The Mistress" tells stories of Other Women.
A couple of hospital tales, "Untold Stories of the ER" and "NY ER," will survive from Discovery Fit & Health.
On April 2, Discovery Life will debut "New Girls on the Block," about some transgender women living in Kansas City, Missouri, home of the Transgender Institute. Their curveball? They were born into bodies in which they were uncomfortable.
"We've got amazing characters," said Jay James, executive producer at Conveyer Media, which is making the show. "We've got really compelling stories, and we have a really interesting world that hasn't been explored on television ... I mean, we've never really seen a group of transgender friends just sitting around in a coffee shop having coffee."
Latman said she's looking for stories that people can identify with on the network, even as they explore worlds they are not used to. Discovery Life is betting that people are getting tired of "reality" shows with manufactured situations.
"These people are relatable," she said. "You're not pointing to them and saying, 'This is a freak show.'"