Discovery Communications has decided it's not easy being green. Discovery Communications is pulling the plug on Planet Green, its cable channel devoted to shows about the environment. In its place, Discovery is launching "Destination America," a new channel that Discovery Chief Executive David Zaslav tells USA Today will be "based on middle America, strong values, behavior and customs." Apparently one custom the channel deems truly Midwestern is fast food. One of the new shows on the channel will be "Fast Food Mania," which is described as a look behind the best fast-food places and what makes them tick. Maybe John Mellencamp can host an episode about Dairy Queen.
The cable programming giant announced it is pulling the plug on Planet Green, its nearly 4-year-old low-rated cable network devoted to "green lifestyle programming." On May 28, which is Memorial Day, Planet Green will become Destination America, a channel that Discovery said will "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."
Most of the shows on Planet Green -- including "World's Greenest Homes" and "Living with Ed," a reality show starring actor and environmental activist Ed Begley Jr. -- were aimed at "motivating individuals to take action when it comes to improving the environmental status of our planet," according to the network's website.
But Destination America -- which will launch in about 60 million homes -- is clearly going in a different direction. One of its new shows, "United States of Food," is described as a "celebration of America’s obsession with meat." Another, "Fast Food Mania," promises to "celebrate our favorite fast food treats and search for the most unusual fast food items and outposts."
“Discovery Communications continuously strives to break new ground with its unrivaled approach to storytelling that ignites viewers’ curiosity,” said David Zaslav, president and chief executive of Discovery Communications.
Other shows on Destination America include "Cheating Las Vegas," about "elaborate scams of modern casino gaming," and "Super-Duper Thrill Rides," which will tour the nation's amusement parks.
Photo of Asa Butterfield, left, plays Hugo Cabret, and Sacha Baron Cohen portrays the Station Inspector in a scene from Martin Scorsese's movie "Hugo." Credit: Jaap Buitendijk / Paramount
Google going strong arm against Netflix, Apple and other On Demand and Streaming Movie Sources. Google Inc.'s YouTube has struck a movie-rental deal with a fifth major Hollywood studio, Paramount Pictures, adding 500 new titles to its expanding online library.
The addition of Paramount's films brings YouTube's rental library to nearly 9,000 titles, featuring such popular mainstream movies as Martin Scorsese's Academy Award-winning "Hugo" and director Michael Bay's action-packed "Transformers" and classics including "The Godfather."
The deal reflects YouTube's strategy to provide its millions of online viewers with a range of entertainment options, from its trademark user-created video and polished Web originals to professional, long-form content.
Securing more sought-after Hollywood entertainment also supports Google's other high-profile initiatives, such as its Android mobile platform. The same movies available on YouTube also can be rented and watched on Android smartphones and tablets through Google Play.
"Paramount Pictures is one of the biggest movie studios on the planet," Malik Ducard, YouTube's director of content partnerships, said in an e-mailed statement. "We're thrilled to bring nearly 500 of their movies in the U.S. and Canada on YouTube and Google Play."
YouTube already reached on-demand agreements with Sony Pictures Entertainment, Warner Bros., Universal Pictures and Walt Disney Studios.
What's most interesting about YouTube's movie rental agreement with Paramount is that it occurred at all.
Paramount's corporate parent, Viacom Inc., sought last fall to revive its $1-billion lawsuit against YouTube over the alleged unauthorized posting of clips from popular TV shows to the site from 2005 to 2008. Arguments were heard last October in the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York, although no verdict has been rendered.
A U.S. District Court ruled in June 2010 that YouTube was protected from such infringement claims because of the "safe harbor" provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
The Paramount Pictures arrangement, which one person familiar with the situation confirmed, is not without precedent: MTV , Nickelodeon and Comedy Central all have channels on YouTube.
Photo: Scenes from "Pubertina," one of several animated series to be featured on a new animation channel on YouTube called Shut Up! Cartoons. Credit: Shut Up! Cartoons
Shut Up! Cartoon Network Online. One is about a Japanese monster that shrinks down to human size and is forced to seek a variety of mundane jobs. Another describes the life of a 13-year-old going through puberty, from the perspective of a recent Cal Arts graduate.
"Krogzilla gets a job" and "Pubertina" are among 18 original series that will be featured on a new online animation channel on YouTube debuting April 30 called Shut Up! Cartoons. It's the brainchild of comedic duo Anthony Padilla and Ian Hecox, creators of the popular YouTube channel Smosh.
Shut Up! Cartoons, targeted at teens and young adults, will feature a diverse lineup of shows, and is the latest example of how the Internet is emerging as an increasingly important breeding ground for animation.
Top online video distributors such as Yahoo and YouTube are creating or distributing premium online animation as part of an effort to keep viewers on their sites and to generate more advertising dollars. Google Inc.'s YouTube, its dominant online video site, is helping fund and develop 100-plus free high-quality channels with the support of top Hollywood animation veterans and new talent.
"It's a really exciting opportunity for us,'' said Barry Blumberg, the Shut Up! Cartoons executive producer and former longtime chief of Disney Television Animation. "What everybody struggles with in the media world is that there are a lot of cooks in the kitchen. We talked to creatives and said, 'What would it be like to essentially make your own thing?'"
Read more in today's business section.
Photo: NBC's "Community." Credit: Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times.
I am sorry, sort of. Dan Harmon, the executive producer of NBC's critical darling "Community," has taken a lot of heat for his part in a feud with Chevy Chase, a co-star on the show. Harmon made fun of Chase at the "Community" wrap party and Chase responded with a sharply worded message on Harmon's machine, which the producer later played in public. Of course, the message ended up online. Now, in a blog post, Harmon has apologized to fans of the show for the incident. He does not, in the post, really apologize to Chase. I only wish "Community" was this interesting on the screen.
Daily Dose: Talks have stalled between Tribune Co. and DirecTV. Tribune, parent of the Los Angeles Times, pulled its TV channels off the satellite broadcaster last weekend. Since then, the two companies have traded shots and DirecTV even filed a complaint about Tribune with the Federal Communications Commission. Usually when a fight becomes this nasty, lawmakers start to threaten both sides in an attempt to push them back to the table to cut a deal. Don't be surprised if, in the next few days, local and national politicians start to get involved in the battle.
Where did everybody go? Filming in the Los Angeles area dropped 2% in the first quarter of 2012, compared with the first three months of last year. The cause of the decline was television. While location filming for movies was up 16%, and commercial activity jumped 11%, television was off 19%. The television numbers are not likely to improve either as pilot production in the area was down 11%. Details from the Los Angeles Times.
The son doesn't always rise. James Murdoch's resignation as chairman of satellite broadcaster British Sky Broadcasting has added to the already dark shadow over his future at News Corp., the media giant run by his father, Rupert Murdoch. The younger Murdoch has been tarnished by the ethics scandal at the company's British newspapers, including the now-closed News of the World. The move to have him step back from his role at BSkyB is an attempt to shield that company from any blowback against Murdoch by British regulators. While financial analysts really don't care about the fate of News Corp.'s newspapers, BSkyB is considered a critical asset. Analysis from the Wall Street Journal and Los Angeles Times.
Staying put. David Letterman has renewed his deal with CBS and will keep doing "The Late Show" through the 2014 season, which would give him the longest run of any late-night host -- beating late-night legend Johnny Carson. CBS also gave Letterman's follow-up act -- Craig Ferguson -- another two years. Ferguson is also getting a new studio in Los Angeles. Currently in a small studio, Ferguson was thought by some to end up moving to New York should Letterman step down. With that not happening for at least two years, looks like CBS decided to throw Ferguson a bone with some new digs here. Coverage from the Los Angeles Times.
Inside the Los Angeles Times: Robert Lloyd on NBC's new sitcom "Best Friends Forever." A look at Morgan Spurlock's new documentary about Comic-Con. Disney has cutbacks in its interactive division.
-- Joe Flint and friends
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