Heads Roll at Discovery

Feb 5, 2007  •  Post A Comment

New Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav is cleaning house.

Several senior executives including Discovery Networks U.S. President Billy Campbell, whose position is being eliminated, are leaving the company. Also on their way out: The heads of Animal Planet Media, human resources and international. Mr. Zaslav, who came to Discovery last month, is assembling his own team with more executives reporting directly to him.

The head of TLC, David Abraham, is also leaving the company to take a new position in the U.K.

Mr. Zaslav, who replaced long-time Discovery president Judith McHale, said in a memo released Monday that the organizational changes are designed to help the company build strong brands, create a lean and aggressive organization and lead in new media and brand extension.

“These changes are substantial,” Mr. Zaslav said in a memo. “The goal is to maintain Discovery’s leadership as the No. 1 non-fiction media company in the world, while clarifying responsibilities, improving financial performance and ultimately creating more shareholder value.”

In the new organization, the executive VP-general managers of five network brand groups have been promoted to president-general manger and will report directly to Mr. Zaslav. Joe Abruzzese, the head of advertising sales, and Bill Goodwyn, head of affiliate sales and marketing, also will report directly to Mr. Zaslav.

Under the new structure, the network brand groups are headed by:

— Jane Root, president and GM of the Discover Channel also oversees the Science Channel.

— Pat Younge, president of Discovery Travel Media.

— Marjorie Kaplan, who is being promoted to president and general manager of Animal Planet Media and Discovery Kids Media. At Animal Planet, she replaces Maureen Smith, who is leaving the company.

— Lee Tacconi, president of Discovery Health Media Enterprises.

— At TLC, a search will be launched for a new president to replace Mr. Abraham.

Mr. Zaslav said each president will assume additional responsibility for production, marketing, new media, communications and research.

Mr. Zaslav is forming a new unit, Discovery Studios, that will be comprised of the Discovery Production Group, Discovery Films, Discovery Creative Resource and the Preditor short-form unit. Discovery Studios will be headed by Clark Bunting, who will also report to Mr. Zaslav.

He’s also introducing an Emerging Networks Group that will include Military Channel, Discovery Times Channel, Discovery Home Channel and Discovery HD Theater. A search is on to fill the president’s position for the new unit.

Mark Hollinger is being promoted to president, global business and operations and Greg Ricca is joining the company as president and CEO of Discovery Networks International. He joins Discovery from Viacom, where he was chief operating officer of MTV International from 1996 to 2003. He will report to Mr. Hollinger and replaces Dawn McCall, who had been with the company for 20 years.

Adria Alpert-Romm is joining Discovery as senior executive VP of human resources, from NBC Universal. She replaces Pandit Wright, who has been with Discovery for 12 years.

Under the new organization, Discovery Education will report to Mr. Goodwyn, who takes on the new title of president, domestic distribution and enterprises.

Mr. Zaslav said he is also searching for a new head of business development for the company. He has also hired Tom Wolzien as a consultant to work with the company on opportunities in digital television, the internet and new media platforms. Mr. Wolzien had been an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein, where he covered media companies including Liberty Media, one of Discovery’s owners. Joel Berman, former president of worldwide television distribution for Paramount Pictures and CBS/Paramount Television, has been retained as a consultant on the company’s syndication strategy.

(Editor: Baumann)