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Bodying Up

1/04/2008 7:00 PM Eastern

Discovery Health is adding online video muscle to its staple National Body Challenge health-and-fitness series, adding a myriad of on-demand workout segments and nutritional tips to its Web site to help guide users through the eight-week weight loss program.

Carole Tomko, executive vice president and general manager of Discovery Health Media, which includes Discovery Health and FitTV, has targeted greater online participation for the five-year old series, which saw an online registration decline last year after peaking in 2006.

WEB COMPONENT

The channel invites participants to join the “challenge” on Discovery Health’s Web site (http://health.discovery.com/), tracking their own weight-loss efforts over an eight-week period that began Jan. 5.

New online this time are on-demand videos from such big-name fitness trainers as Gilad, which Tomko hopes will encourage participants to become more active.

Nutritional and lifestyle video tips from Discovery Health on-air nutritionist Dr. Pam Peeke also virtually walk users through the weight loss process.

And registered users also gain access to more than 1,000 free recipes and nutritional services, plus a free, eight-week trial membership in sponsor Bally Total Fitness.

Thus far, results are encouraging: Since registration opened Dec. 27, the network has already signed up 116,000 participants, 10% above last year’s take for the same period, according to Tomko.

She expects to top last year’s 410,000 total participants — and surpass the record 436,000 who signed up in 2006.

“Right now, losing weight and getting in shape is top of mind to people,” she said, of the New Year’s resolution period. But, unlike previous years, Discovery Health wants to help maintain the gains year-round by keeping those fitness and recipe resources on the Discovery Health Web site. “We’re trying to make sure that people know that it’s not a one-time hit,” Tomko said of the network’s top franchise. “We think fighting obesity is a real cornerstone for the network, and getting people healthy is part of the network’s mission.”

The all-important TV component kicks in today (Jan. 7) at 8 p.m. ET/PT with Discovery Health’s premiere of National Body Challenge: Twins, a four part series chronicling the lives of four sets of overweight twins and their 15-week journey to unload the fat and get healthy.

FOUR-NIGHT RUN

The series runs consecutively over four nights, following twins as they are placed on a strict weight-loss regimen in an effort to lose at least 10% of body weight.

Tomko said unlike other weight-loss shows on broadcast and cable (think VH1’s Celebrity Fit Club), the National Body Challenge stresses not only weight loss but the importance of lifestyle changes that help keep it off.

As the twins look to trim the fat, the network hopes to expand viewer appetite for the series and improve on the 220,000 average viewers for the 2007 edition.

Last season, the series tracked the weight-loss heroics of several families, aired in two-hour blocks two nights in a row.

Airing the new version over four straight nights should help build viewer momentum, Tomko said. “In the past, I didn’t think we had something that we could build to a conclusion, but this year I think we have a really nice build,” she said.

 

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April