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Discovery Channel Backs Slowly Away from Tomb

John on March 8, 2007 at 8:01 pm

Officially they’re 100% behind it, of course. Here’s the behind the scenes scoop from TV Week:

Although Mr. Leavy said the network stands by the documentary “100 percent,” the company took several unusual steps in the wake of the controversy that could be seen as distancing itself from the content.

Last week, Discovery abruptly scheduled a panel debate to air after the documentary, moderated by Discovery newsman Ted Koppel. Discovery’s announcement of the panel emphasized that Mr. Koppel “has no connection to the production of ‘The Lost Tomb of Jesus’” and that “the panel will explore the filmmakers’ profound assertions and challenge their assumptions and suggested conclusions.”

When the panel discussion aired, guests criticized the documentary as “archaeo-porn” that played fast and loose with the facts.

The day after the March 4 airing, Discovery yanked a planned repeat of “Tomb” from its more hard-news-branded Discovery Times Channel.

When the Nielsen ratings revealed that “Tomb” averaged 4.1 million viewers – Discovery’s largest audience since September 2005 – the network declined to put out a press release touting the numbers, as would be standard practice for a highly successful premiere. The second-season premiere of Discovery Channel’s “Future Weapons,” for instance, earned a media announcement for its audience of 2.5 million. A network representative, however, insisted Discovery was not trying to bury “Tomb.”

But here’s my favorite quote:

“This is not one where you necessarily beat the drum, from a business perspective,” said David Leavy, executive VP of corporate communications at Discovery. “It’s not necessarily about making money, or making ratings, or shouting from the highest office building. Sometimes having some maturity and perspective is more important than getting picked up in all the ratings highlights.”

Right, because we all know that TV excecs don’t really care about ratings. It’s really about maturity and perspective. Either that or your program was an embarassment to your entire organization and this is your lame attempt at a CYA maneuver.

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