Byline: Chris Baker, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Discovery Communications Inc. said yesterday that it will sell half its stake in the Discovery Civilization Channel to the New York Times Co. for $100 million, the first step in a plan to boost the small cable network.
In addition, Bethesda-based Discovery has signed a five-year, $40 million deal with the Times' television production unit, which will provide programming for several Discovery-owned networks.
"This is a way to extend the New York Times brand into a different medium," said Catherine Mathis, spokeswoman for the New York Times Co.
Some Times reporters and editors might appear on Discovery Civilization, which airs historical-themed documentaries, Ms. Mathis said.
Discovery Communications will continue to manage the network, which will be governed by a board of directors made up of three Discovery appointees and two Times appointees.
The deal is designed to boost Discovery Civilization, one of six digital-cable networks that Discovery Communications started in 1996.
Discovery Civilization has 14 million subscribers. Its chief competition, the History Channel, has more than 72 million subscribers.
"We want to expand the program's distribution, and we think compelling programming will help drive that," said David Leavy, spokesman for Discovery Communications.
Discovery is one of the few media companies that are growing despite a soft advertising market.
The company will produce $770 million in cash flow this year, up from $560 million in 2001, according to some analysts' projections.
Discovery has increasingly partnered with other media groups in recent years.
The British Broadcasting Corp. has an ownership stake in Animal Planet, one of Discovery's most popular networks. The BBC and Discovery …