Discovery Digital Networks Woos Millennials With YouTube Stars and VR

Signs Louis Cole and launches new TLC digital site for women

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With YouTube stars and addictive livestreams, Discovery Digital Networks is focused on keeping millennials glued to its content.

For its inaugural NewFronts presentation Tuesday at Urbo in New York's Times Square, the online arm of Discovery Communications—which includes more than 110 digital series covering everything from science and technology to current events and pop culture—announced that it has signed global traveler Louis Cole, who will bring his FunForLouis YouTube channel, with more than 1.3 million subscribers and 120 million views, to Seeker, Discovery's adventure-themed digital network that launched in March. 

"His videos speak to the huge, millennial demand for aspirational, adventure programming," said Discovery Digital Networks gm Colin Decker.

Seeker will debut the original series Flying the Globe (working title), in which Cole travels the world in a small aircraft (think Around the World in 60 to 90 Days). Cole will explore 22 different countries, including major cities and off-the-grid locales, and raise awareness about the issues facing people in each place. 

"It's the first flight of this kind that's going to be documented as well as this," said Cole, who will be documenting the trip on social media and livestreaming. "Nothing like this has been done before."

Landing Cole is the latest millennial-focused grab for Discovery Digital Networks, which draws 150 million streams a month (including content streams on YouTube and iTunes), accounting for half of Discovery Communications' monthly streams. Another way the company ensures that its shows target the correct demo: "We talk so fast, no one over 50 can understand it," joked William Haynes, host of pop culture/comedy channel SourceFed.

Discovery also announced the launch of TLCme, its new "one-stop shop" digital site and community for women, which will include tips to make their lives easier and regular content from contributors like fashion expert Stacy London, who hosts TLC's Love, List or Run. TGI Fridays is TLCme's launch sponsor. 

In a recurring theme during this year's NewFronts, Discovery Digital also is making a virtual reality push, unveiling Discovery Virtual.

"This is one of our most innovative moves in the next year, period, across the company," said Discovery Digital Studios svp Conal Byrne, who also said that the Mythbusters team has already begun shooting VR for next season, and several other VR programs are in development. "We believe VR will fundamentally change the way that fans connect with your content. When you experience VR, it is like seeing the future. It is digital media at its very best."

And, in a development that will likely be even more compelling to audiences than VR, Discovery Live will be rolling out 100 live and slow TV cams around the world, streaming everything from Mount Everest to sharks, as it expands its popular livestreaming sites. Last month, viewers flocked to Animal Planet Live to watch the Dallas Zoo's Katie the giraffe give birth to a healthy calf, Kipenzi.

In other Discovery Digital news, OWN has expanded its digital content on, with More Masters, featuring new celebrity interviews with Oprah Winfrey; Adam Says with fashion talk from Adam Glassman, creative director of O the Oprah Magazine; and Sadie Unleashed, a new show about the adventures of Winfrey's beloved cocker spaniel. 

Sean Atkins, gm and evp of digital media strategy, reiterated a familiar Discovery theme: while other sites are aggregators, "we're laser-focused on creating and curating our own content." Discovery Digital has the highest percentage of original video content among all digital video companies. 

The company also presented research from Neuro-Insight U.S. CEO Pranav Yadav, who studied how people's brains respond to native advertising. Among his findings: Discovery's native advertising outperforms competitive native ads, and native and pre-roll ads are most effective in isolation, as overbranding harms both.

@jasonlynch Jason Lynch is TV Editor at Adweek, overseeing trends, technology, personalities and programming across broadcast, cable and streaming video.