Discovery currently operates Discovery and Learning Channels. And the service is planning to launch at least four sub-niches: nature-oriented Animal Planet, science-oriented Quark, life-style-oriented Living and history-oriented Time Traveler.
Discovery, already competing with other comparable cable channels such as A&E, plus fare on PBS, will now battle other, newer niche channels, such as A&E's own spinoff, History Channel.
Discovery has plans for at least two other niche services to follow: one focusing on kids' programming and one about global affairs.
Discovery executives have no illusions that these channels will grow to rival established networks like CNN, MTV or even its flagship, but they do believe the niche services can be viable at a much smaller base.
That's partly because the programming can be amortized against its older sibling networks, and partly because new-media platforms and forms of distribution will expand the marketability of niche programming.