Discovery Networks International and National Geographic Channels are going head to head with similar content strategies – but have set their sights on competing with the terrestrial channels.

The factual specialists have both launched UK-based global commissioning hubs, led by Discovery’s Julian Bellamy and NGC’s Hamish Mykura respectively, with an increased push on factual entertainment-led formatted shows along with one-off landmarks.

But speaking at the Edinburgh International TV Festival, Discovery head of programming for Western Europe Dan Korn said both networks’ budget injections meant they had to acquire new audiences rather than steal share from each other.

“Our biggest challenge is not scrapping for viewers among ourselves but competing with the terrestrials. We now have the budget, volume and commissioning talent to rival them,” said Korn.

Mykura said there had been a “sea change” in NGC’s programming in a bid to grow the channel’s share. “There has been a shift in programming towards returnable, longer-running series featuring characters and often containing a transactional element,” he said.  

Thematic differences in content remain, with Discovery targeting adventure, science and “turbo”, while NGC focuses on anthropological, environmental and geography-led shows. Both channels will continue to look for landmark series alongside fact-ent output.

Mykura warned that suppliers must prioritise the broadcaster’s orders following the greater levels of investment: “There has been a bad tradition of indies putting work experience staff onto our shows and that is unacceptable.”