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Ford Takes Spot Atop Discovery Channel as Root Exits

Nov 28, 2007  •  Post A Comment

Jane Root, who has helped lead the Discovery Channel to a comeback over the past year, is leaving.
Discovery Communications named John Ford, who returned to the company earlier this year, to head its flagship channel.
Discovery veteran Clark Bunting, now head of the company’s production unit, will take over the channels that had been run by Mr. Ford, the Military Channel and Discovery Times.
Ms. Root also was responsible for Science Channel. The company will conduct a search for a new head of that network.
The moves continue the executive merry-go-round at Discovery Communications that began when David Zaslav came in from NBC Universal as CEO at the beginning of the year.
Mr. Zaslav declined to comment on the state of his relationship with Ms. Root. While acknowledging the network’s ratings are up 20% this year, he said he thinks the network can do better, and that Mr. Ford was the executive to take it to the next level.
“John Ford is probably the best nonfiction programmer in the business,” said Mr. Zaslav, adding he’s known Mr. Ford for 20 years and worked with him while a director at National Geographic Channel. “I wanted him to be a part of Discovery Communications. He has tons of horsepower.”
Mr. Zaslav also said he wanted to get a heavyweight to concentrate on growing Science Channel, whose viewership has nearly doubled this year.
“It could be bigger than the History Channel,” said Mr. Zaslav. “I’m looking for a big gun to run that.”

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