Listen, I understand pet owners calling themselves "pet parents" and their charges "pet babies" is all part of the humanization of our domesticated companions, but Discovery Communications (NASDAQ:DISCA) is barking up the wrong tree with its decision to invest in DogTV, a 24-hour cable channel that airs programming targeted to... dogs!
Running programming about dogs, like Discovery does with its Animal Planet channel, is one thing; operating a channel for dogs is something else, and while the company didn't divulge how much its investment cost, any amount spent on the project seems a waste of shareholder resources.
The channel is supposedly based on years of scientific research and developed in consultation with canine behavior experts who believe Fido needs relaxing, stimulating, and behavior-improving programming that "work[s] collaboratively to provide just the right balance for the daily routines of our beloved 'stay-at-home' dogs." Subscribers to DIRECTV (NYSE:DTV.DL) can get the channel for just $4.99 a month, but dog owners with a different service can stream it online over their computers, Roku boxes, smartphones and tablets, smart TVs, and Blu-ray players for $9.99 a month.
At the risk of offending pet owners, er, pet parents, everywhere, let me say this gently... It's a dog! And besides, the channel might not be doing your dog or your other pets any good anyway.
According to other researchers, whereas the human eye can perceive what looks like fluid movement when it's shown at 16 to 20 images per second, dogs need at least 70 images per second. Although today's technologically advanced TVs can probably meet that requirement, if you have other animals -- birds, for example -- they might get stressed out by seeing your TV set running all the time because they require as many as 100 images per second to see movement similarly (slower than that and they experience what experts describe as being left in a room with a strobe light flashing).
Along with differences between breeds, dogs also don't see color as humans do. We have more cones in our eyes, allowing for greater color differentiation, giving us the ability to see reds and yellows in addition to the blues and greens only available to dogs. Humans are visual creatures; dogs are not, relying instead primarily upon their sense of smell. Perhaps if Smell-o-Vision were to become a reality, the inventors would be on to something, but since dogs generally sleep when we're away, leaving DogTV on the tube for them is more likely a waste of energy -- and your money.
Money to burn
The American Pet Products Association says more than 56% of all U.S. households own a dog, and as noted above, owners have taken to humanizing them to make them one of the family, so there probably is a potential market for a dog-centric cable TV channel (why no love for cats?). But DogTV doesn't publicly reveal how many subscribers it has, so investors can only hope Discovery vetted the numbers to make sure the money it's allocating to this project is well spent.
Discovery Communications might not be a dog of an investment for what I consider to be its squandering of shareholder value here, but if you take your responsibility as a pet parent seriously, then you probably can find better ways to pamper your pooch than plopping Fido in front of the boob tube all day.
Rich Duprey has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends DIRECTV. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.