I had recently been wondering about the change in programming Planet Green has undergone, and what that meant for the future of the network. It had seemed to stray from its original mission of programming about ecological matters to become a catchall lifestyle channel, airing reruns of shows about ghosts, UFOs and other things very far removed from its “Green” title. A dead giveaway that it was no longer the “Green” network was when it was one of only two networks in the Discovery family that did not simulcast the series premiere of Frozen Planet last month, which would have been a natural fit for the channel in its original incarnation. Planet Green seemed to be a network in search of a new identity.
Today, that identity was announced. Starting May 28, the channel will be renamed Destination America (Planet Green’s online presence, PlanetGreen.com, will remain). According to a release from Discovery Communications, which operates the channel, Destination America “explores the themes that connect Americans such as lifestyle, how-to, food, home renovation, antiques and design.” The release also says that this “will continue the mission of Planet Green,” but I’m skeptical that antiques and design were ever part of the original Planet Green plan. It sounds like it may be headed more toward continuing its transformation into another catchall network, with a touch of the Red State patriotism that has worked so well for History.
“Americans may be divided by politics, but we are united by our love of country,” says Henry Schleiff, president and general manager of Destination America, perhaps anticipating questions of why a network like Planet Green that would at least theoretically appeal more to left-leaning types would seemingly turn a bit more to the right with a network described in terms that almost could have been lifted from a presidential campaign: “the first network to celebrate the people, places and stories of the United States, emblazoned with the grit and tenacity, honesty and work ethic, humor and adventurousness that characterize our nation.”
“As a network inclusive to all,” continues Schleiff, “Destination America will celebrate this connective spirit by curating the common ground among us: the pluck of the worn saddle, the promise of exploring new territory, and the diversity that has made this nation great.”
A preliminary glance at the network’s programming provided in its release feels like the types of subjects you might see on Travel Channel, or in an episode of that Larry the Cable Guy show on History. Titles listed include a new season of BBQ Pitmasters (May 30); and the new series Fast Food Mania (June 3); an hourlong special called Super-Duper Thrill Rides (June 16); the series United States of Food (July 8); Cheating Las Vegas (July 8); and Ghost Town Gold (August).
According to Marc Etkind, senior vice president of content strategy for Destination America, “Our research, coupled with my own experience developing shows about America over the last 20 years, has shown that viewers have a huge appetite for content focused on our unique culture and spirit. By collecting the very best of travel, adventure, food, home and natural history into one brand, we’re excited to create a new lifestyle destination for programming that Americans love.”
There’s no doubt that Planet Green was an extremely niche network to begin with, and I had my doubts it would last. Whether its short run was due to lack of interest, or mismanagement and lack of programming will be up for debate. Like so many other networks, it had to make a choice, and its choice is to become … like so many other networks. Which makes sense, when looking at the ratings successes of the likes of History and A&E. It will likely do better than Planet Green, but to me, these shows and networks are all seeming to blend together now, especially when they tend to focus only on certain segments of America as being “real.” If Destination America truly makes the entire country its destination, and succeeds in being as inclusive as it states it will be, it might be worth looking into.
And then Discovery can move on to the issues with OWN …