Discovery Communications, moving to expand its Internet offerings, is set to hire Publicis & Hal Riney, San Francisco, for a consolidated ad effort for its online units.
Spending is expected to reach as much as $70 million.
The company would only say that it was "on the verge of a major announcement about our business strategy." A spokeswoman said the disclosure would be made within the next month, and confirmed the company was in talks with agencies about a dot-com account.
WIEDEN BOWS OUT
Wieden & Kennedy, New York, dropped out. Arnold Communications, Boston, and Citron Haligman Bedecarre, San Francisco, also pitched.
Discovery earlier said it plan-ned an aggressive push for its online properties, both for original content sites as well as e-commerce enterprises.
Its online properties include extensions of its TV brands, including Discovery Channel Online, Discovery Health, the Learning Channel and Animal Planet. In November, it purchased a major stake in Petstore.com, becoming its largest shareholder.
Black Rocket, San Francisco, is Petstore's agency.
The company has evolved a separate e-commerce unit. Tom Burke, formerly VP-consumer products marketing of Discovery Enterprises Worldwide, has been named senior VP-Discovery Online marketing.
"It is a great way to close the loop with our viewers," the Discovery spokeswoman said, "allowing viewers to see a program on cable, read more about the programming material online and then purchase related products."
Riney has put together a string of dot-com wins recently, including Webvan and eToys. The most recent was the $25 million account for ePods, which will introduce a hardware product and Net service that is an alternative to PCs.
While the Discovery Channel had much of the wilds of the Internet to itself since 1995, when it launched Discovery Channel Online, more serious and well-financed contenders are now muscling in on its turf.
The National Geographic Society has teamed up with NBC and News Corp.'s Fox Entertainment Group to launch a new channel later this year.
On the dot-com side, numerous broadcast TV entities have taken the plunge into some of the same health and learning arenas Discovery dominated on cable.
Last year, Discovery spent $34 million on measured media, according to Competitive Media Reporting. Advertising was done in-house.
Copyright January 2000, Crain Communications Inc.