Conde Nast, Discovery Channel eye new show

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Conde Nast Publications is exploring a deal with the Discovery Channel to air 26 episodes of "Epicurious," with content based on material from Bon Appetit, Conde Nast Traveler and Gourmet.

If succcesful, this is likely to be the first of a number of major content deals between Conde Nast and its parent company, Advance Publications, and Discovery Com-munications.

It comes at a time when Conde Nast is suddenly jump-starting its efforts to embrace brand extensions and other media opportunities beyond the core magazines as part of a new corporate strategy.

S.I. Newhouse Jr., chairman of Advance and Conde Nast, acknowledged there have been discussions with the Discovery Channel and that Conde Nast Editorial Director James Truman has been involved in the talks.

Mr. Newhouse said it could be 1998 at the earliest before the discussions yield actual products.

"There have been discussions at the creative level but as far as we know, we're a long way from anything," Mr. Newhouse said.

SHOW MAY BOW THIS FALL

Other executives, however, said the deal for "Epicurious" is much closer to realization and the show could bow this fall or early in '98.

The talks could lead to Conde Nast/Advance becoming a major content contributor to Travel & Living, a spin-off cable network Discovery hopes will become a serious challenger to the Travel Channel.

Discovery had been in discussions to acquire Travel Channel last year but talks fell apart over price and tax issues.

One executive said that if Discovery revisits its interest in Travel Channel, and a purchase is eventually consummated, Advance "would . . . still become involved on the content side."

Though Advance's sister company, Advance Newhouse Com-munications, holds a 24.6% ownership stake in Discovery, it has never unleashed its print powerhouses into Discovery's world.

INTERNET, TOO

Also involved in the talks is Steven Newhouse, editor in chief of The (Jersey City, N.J.) Jersey Journal and president of Advance Internet.

"Epicurious" will be a video version of Conde Nast's Epicurious Internet site.

Fodors Travel Publications, a Random House subsidiary, also has been the subject of some of the talks.

"One discussion has been an information partnership," said Michela English, president of Dis-covery Enterprises Worldwide.

"We can perhaps provide a gateway to book travel destinations," Ms. English continued, adding that in that instance Discovery would likely seek a partner that could include an airline or travel agency or travel company.

In another proposal, Discovery travel kits--consisting of print material, a CD-ROM and a video for various destinations--would be hawked online, on-air, and in retail outlets, including Discovery's own Nature Co. and Discovery stores.

Copyright March 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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