Intel has committed at least $10 million to sponsor Discovery Channel's new series "Curiosity," which will feature ads from only four advertisers in total.
"Curiosity" represents something of a change for Discovery, whose highest-profile programs until now have comprised big-budget documentaries such as "Life" in 2010 or "Planet Earth" in 2006. "Curiosity" is more akin to "60 Minutes," exploring topics from intelligence to neuroscience to nanotechnology.
Discovery has committed to producing 60 episodes over the next five years, said Jocelyn Egan, senior VP-Discovery Solutions, a Discovery unit devoted to creating broad cross-media programs for marketers. The show is set to begin on Discovery Channel in the U.S. on Aug. 7 and in more than 210 countries and territories around the world in September.
"This is pretty ambitious and very expensive," said Joe Abruzzese, president-ad sales, Discovery Communications.
Intel will serve as a "presenting partner" of "Curiosity," said Nancy Bhagat, VP-marketing strategy at Intel. In addition to running elements in four premiere episodes of the show and appearing on its website, Curiosity.com, Intel will participate in initiatives from Discovery's education unit designed to involve students. Social media and mobile marketing are also part of the mix.
Intel hopes to avoid the hard sell, said Ms. Bhagat. "It's not about us launching a new ad campaign," she said. "It's really about the content behind the idea of 'Curiosity' itself."
But viewers will find it difficult to avoid Intel's messages. Discovery will create short-form vignettes featuring Intel employees discussing what sparks their curiosity. Intel will also be the centerpiece of a show segment called "What Makes Us Curious." The Intel-backed content will prod viewers to go online to learn more about specific topics. Intel will make use of "Curiosity" in more than 40 countries.
Intel and Discovery estimated the cost of the sponsorship to be between $10 million and $20 million.
The companies have been working on the project since 2009, said Ms. Bhagat, after Darryl Simm, president-CEO of Omnicom Media Group, played an integral role in alerting Intel to an opportunity with the new show.
The relationship offered Intel a chance to weigh in on topics selected and even to suggest possible hosts, said the executives from both companies. "We've actually had a say in the content." said Ms. Bhagat. "They've taken some show ideas off the table based on our discussions."
Discovery said it has retained ultimate control over the program's shape and tone. "I can't really say they direct the content, because we really do control that , but they certainly have provided their feedback," said Ms. Egan.
"Ultimately, we're responsible for what we put on the air," said Mr. Abruzzese.