September 4, 2006

Discovery network mourns Irwin, plans tribute

By Mark Felsenthal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Television company Discovery
Communications Inc. on Monday said it mourned the loss of
"Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin, the Australian talent who
cemented its reputation, and said it planned a marathon showing
of his programs among other tributes.

Irwin, who died earlier on Monday at 44 after being stabbed
in the chest by a stingray in Australia while on a filming
expedition for Discovery's Animal Planet network, helped bring
it worldwide attention, the company said in a statement.

"His show was one of the first true breakout hits, not only
for Animal Planet, but for our company," said Annie Howell, a
spokeswoman for the parent company, Discovery Communications of
Silver Spring, Maryland.

Irwin's program was among the initial offerings on the
fledgling Animal Planet network when it was launched in 1996,
said Maureen Smith, general manager for Animal Planet U.S.
Ratings spiked and the company realized it had a hit.

"He became part of pop culture very quickly," Smith said.

Outside the United States, Animal Planet is available in
160 countries in Europe, Asia, Latin America, Africa and the
Middle East with programming in 24 different languages,
Discovery said. The network reaches 88 million households in
the United States.

Discovery Communications is 50 percent owned by publicly
listed Discovery Holding Co.

Animal Planet is scheduled to air tributes to Irwin
beginning at 6 p.m. EDT. Animal Planet U.S. and Animal Planet
International plan to air a marathon featuring highlights of
Irwin's more than 200 appearances on Discovery networks shows.

Irwin leaves behind several uncompleted projects, including
the one he was working on at the time of his death, Smith said.

However, he and his production partner John Stainton have a
trove of material that has not been aired, she added. In
addition, Irwin had several programs in post-production,
including two travel shows, she said.

Irwin's existing series will continue to air for some time,
Smith said.

Discovery plans to rename a garden at its headquarters for
Irwin and establish a fund in his honor to support wildlife
conservation and the education of Bindi and Bob Irwin, his

"He'll always be a part of Discovery," said William
Campbell, Discovery Networks U.S., on CNN.