* SpongeBob SquarePants, other dogs among canine favorites
* Observer says DogTV can calm down dogs
By Steve Gorman
LOS ANGELES, April 17 Two months after its San
Diego debut, canine cable channel DogTV is keeping tails wagging
at a local animal shelter, is available on the Internet and is
headed for national distribution, an executive for the
enterprise said on Tuesday.
The advertising-free programming is aimed at stay-at-home
pooches whose work-a-day masters fret about the separation
anxiety their pets suffer, and the trouble they get into, when
left unattended for long stretches of time.
Billed as the first channel of its kind, DogTV made its
premiere on Feb. 13 as a free, around-the-clock offering carried
by Cox Cable and Time Warner's on-demand
services in San Diego, reaching some 483,000 homes in
California's second-largest city.
The content is specifically tailored for four-legged
audiences, with even the sound, colors and camera angles
adjusted to make them more appealing to canines.
The dogs' favorite TV stars, not surprisingly, turn out to
be other dogs.
"They love watching other dogs being active on the screen,
and other animals," said Beke Lubeach, head of marketing for
DogTV, adding that birds, monkeys and zebras have proven popular
The Nielsen television ratings service does not measure
viewership on the channel and Lubeach declined to disclose
details of the company's own marketing research. But she said
that 80 percent of its viewers - or at least the humans who turn
on the channel for their pets - are repeat visitors.
Last week, the channel began offering online streaming from
its website, dogtv.com, for $9.99 a month. On-demand viewing
over Cox and Time Warner cable systems in San Diego remains free
for the duration of test-marketing, which is expected to run
another two months at least, she said.
HOPING TO GO NATIONWIDE
Lubeach said DogTV hopes to have a national distribution
deal in place in the next couple of months, at which point the
channel would charge subscribers about $5 a month.
In the meantime, DogTV has become a big hit at the Humane
Society animal shelter in suburban Escondido, which began airing
the channel on several televisions mounted throughout the
facility last month.
The shelter "has seen a marked improvement in all the dogs
who have been exposed to DogTV," said Sally Costello, executive
director of the Escondido Humane Society, which cares for more
than 5,000 animals a year and currently houses 115 dogs.
In a press release last week, she said that "higher-energy
dogs, which were once showing signs of anxiety, are now
exhibiting positive development and calmer behavior, including
vocalizing less and resting more."
Programming, developed by a team of Israeli television
entrepreneurs, was based on hundreds of hours of research into
what TV-watching dogs like to see and hear and how content for
pooches should appear. Researchers found that dogs favored such
things as harp music and the cartoon series "SpongeBob
While DogTV is a cable television first, the concept of
making couch potatoes out of canines is not new.
More than 60 percent of U.S. dog owners already heed the
national Humane Society's recommendation to keep a radio or
television on in the house when their pets are left alone so the
animals hear comforting voices rather than just silence,
according to Dr. Nicholas Dodman, a member of DogTV's scientific
advisory board and a professor of veterinary medicine and
behavior at Tufts University in Massachusetts.
(Editing by Greg McCune and Bill Trott)