Discovery Networks Europe, best-known for animal documentaries,
wants you to know that it is not just a repository for films about big
cats in the Kalahari. This week it began reshaping its image by bringing
back Mastermind, the cerebral quiz show best known for its ominous music
and black swivel-chair.
For DNE's newly appointed consumer marketing director and head of press
and PR, this is part of an ongoing reinvention. Alanna Carty already had
the marketing brief but is new to PR. Mastermind has given her a fair
bit to work with; sarcastic ex-barrister Clive Anderson has replaced
gruff but kind Magnus Magnusson as quizmaster. And fans should take
note: Plato, the pre-Raphaelites and the Napoleonic Wars are among the
chosen specialist subjects - but so are histories of the Eurovision Song
Contest and The Simpsons. That's some repositioning job.
The sort of sophisticated ex-BBC2 viewers who are happy to tune in for
the new Mastermind are set to have greater choice in content. The UK's
putative 2006 switch-off of the analogue signal will be a huge test of
strategy and nerve for networks such as Discovery. 'It'll be a challenge
for people like us, who have been in the business for a long time.
People who are, say, ten-years-old in 2006 won't have a terrestrial
Despite the fact DNE includes such channels as Health, Home & Leisure
and Kids, its consumers tend to be up-market men aged 35 and above.
'Discovery needs to be reinvigorated, and content is what people come to
you for,' she says. That content, evidently, will evolve.
Interactive TV was a long way off when Carty graduated from Plymouth
University in 1994. Her business degree was skewed towards personnel
management but she spoke German, and Walt Disney TV was looking at
launching channels in central Europe. She became an analyst in the
London research department, looking at product performance and revenue
She says: 'The number-crunching I found ironic; I never thought of
myself as a numbers person.' A desire to get into marketing led to her
departure from Disney. 'I wanted to be more of a front person,' she
She started at DNE in February 1997 as continental networks marketing
manager, handling B2B and B2C marketing. With markets emerging in
Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, there was substantial virgin
territory while the impact of digital platforms and broadband internet
was also being felt.
In 2000 she was put in charge of the consumer marketing team while the
promotion of press and PR manager Liz Healy to a US-based international
role earlier this year left a gap that Carty jumped to fill. She is
disarmingly frank about her lack of PR experience. As she apparently
said to the PR team she inherited from Healy: 'I'm not a PR professional
- yet. But I will be.'
It is an interesting time to be learning the trade: interactive TV is at
a nascent stage. The BBC's interactive Wimbledon coverage this year
apparently angered some non-Sky digital viewers. Unaware the service was
not available to all, they were pressing their remote and accidentally
turning off their analogue sets. A government-led campaign of education
for the viewing public is needed, believes Carty. 'It will be almost
like a Channel 5 scenario,' she says. 'But eventually interactive will
be expected, like video.'
Maximising resources has been her priority so far, with the consumer
marketing and PR teams occupying the same space.
'The team has nearly doubled. There is a PRO for each brand. It is ideal
to have press, PR and marketing together: we're all speaking to
consumers.' The fluid movement of PROs between projects is her aim; a
hotdesking 'special area' has been set up in the London office. Meetings
between various interests have also become all-inclusive, with
advertising, PR and media planning agencies sitting down together with
the in-house team.
'By her own admission, she's not a PR person,' said Ed Staples, director
at The Red Consultancy, which does consumer work on Discovery Channel
and Discovery Animal Planet. 'But she seems to recognise the power of PR
and she's keen to learn. She's quite a risk-taker in terms of what she's
prepared to let us have a go at, to get beyond the TV listings
The 'incredible amount of travelling' of Carty's first Discovery job has
left her with an international network of friends and a continuing
wanderlust. She will be spending her 30th birthday in the Gambia in
January, while work still allows her to pursue an interest in Roman
history, with regular visits to Italy.
And in the meantime, she is broadening her scope. Having just bought a
'derelict' house in Ireland she will be glued to one of Discovery's new
programmes following a man who has done just that and is in the process
of doing it up. Carty says: 'DIY is not my strong point.' But like PR,
she obviously believes it will be.
Analyst, Walt Disney TV
Continental networks marketing manager, Discovery Networks Europe
Consumer marketing director, DNE
Cons. m'ing director/head of press and PR DNE