Alanna Thompson and her family aren't just cooking Sketti and raising gay pigs in rural Georgia, they're doing it all over the world. In a strategy to expand its business beyond the limited domestic cable subscribers, Discovery Communications—the parent company of TLC, as well as channels like OWN and Animal Planet—broadcasts in over 217 countries in 45 different languages.
The New York Times profiles Discovery's international success under the direction of David M. Zaslav, the company's president and chief executive. To make the content—mostly reality programming about American lives—work in different countries, Discovery takes certain measures:
To ensure that Discovery's hit series "Deadliest Catch," about Alaskan king crab fishermen, would resonate in Italy, the company recruited a local fisherman to help introduce the series…In Poland, the local star Dominika Ostalowska serves as the host of the Investigation Discovery channel's true crime series "Behind Mansion Walls," a role similar to Susan Lucci's on a different crime series on Investigation Discovery in the United States…
To appeal to Indian women, TLC's "What Not to Wear" had to be recast with fewer snide put-downs and more positive feedback. Others could seem culturally insensitive. "We have ‘Sister Wives' that you might have to be careful about," said Luis Silberwasser, Discovery Networks International's executive vice president and chief content officer, about the reality show featuring a polygamous family.
What's interesting though is that Toddlers & Tiaras and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo are "very recognizable American content, and it's hit or miss," according to Zaslav. And the shows are a particular hit in Brazil, where the "the episodes come with a glossary of common terms: 'concurso de brillo' in Spanish for 'glitz pageants'; 'gorduchéte' in Portuguese for 'chubette.'"