President and CEO David Zaslav announced today a reorganization of Discovery Communications’ U.S. networks, creating a portfolio group that balances and aligns the company’s brands, genres and creative leadership and strengthens the output of Discovery’s content engine across platforms in the United States and around the world.
The following changes are effective immediately:
Rich Ross to become Group President, Discovery Channel, Animal Planet and Science Channel
Since taking the helm of Discovery Channel, Rich Ross has made an immediate impact on the network’s success, presenting a slate of programming that nourishes Discovery’s core male viewers while attracting more diverse audiences. In his six short months with Discovery Channel, Ross has overseen two record-setting quarters; the highest-rated Shark Week ever among persons 25-54 and women viewers; grew the women 25-54 audience by 20%; and drove the network to be #1 for men and women 25-54 in all of unscripted ad-supported cable in July. Ross also was integral in creating a powerful documentary division and landing the worldwide television rights to the groundbreaking film Racing Extinction, which airs in fourth quarter 2015 on Discovery Channel in over 220 countries.
Ross will apply his expertise to Animal Planet and Science Channel, leading a group of networks with strong missions, shared programming genres and complementary yet distinct audiences. Rick Holzman, General Manager of Animal Planet, will now report to Ross. Holzman previously reported to Marjorie Kaplan, who last week was appointed to the new role of President of Content for Discovery Networks International. During his tenure at Animal Planet, Holzman has overseen the launch of programming as diverse as Too Cute, River Monsters, Treehouse Masters, Whale Wars and Puppy Bowl and helped grow Animal Planet into a top 20 network for men.
Science Channel will continue to be led by current General Manager Rita Mullin, reporting to Ross. Mullin has led the network to double-digit gains in P25-54 total day delivery 2015 to date and has expanded coverage of historic moments in science such as last month’s arrival of the New Horizons spacecraft on Pluto.
Discovery Life Channel now Integrated into TLC
Discovery Life Channel will be integrated into the TLC team, reporting to Executive Vice President and General Manager Nancy Daniels. In her two years leading TLC, Daniels has leveraged her significant creative talents to strengthen the brand, holding a mirror to the culture and telling stories in a compassionate and sensitive way. Daniels has brought beloved new characters and programs to the network including Whitney Thore of My Big Fat Fabulous Life and the inspiring Jazz Jennings of I am Jazz, a top three and top five program for women in their respective timeslots and My Giant Life, which has ranked #3 in its timeslot for women since its debut last month. TLC’s Executive Vice President of Development and Production Howard Lee will also assume responsibility as General Manager of Discovery Life Channel, continuing to report to Daniels.
Group President Henry Schleiff to Continue Leadership of Investigation Discovery, American Heroes Channel and Destination America
Henry Schleiff will continue his strong and successful leadership of Investigation Discovery, American Heroes Channel (AHC) and Destination America. An unparalleled builder of brands, Schleiff has a keen ability to attract new audiences and create networks with distinct voices in the marketplace. He has grown the record-setting ID from a top 50 network to become the #3 network for women and the #7 network for adults in total day with consistent hits like On the Case with Paula Zahn and Vanity Fair Confidential and break-through titles like Wives with Knives and Who the (Bleep) Did I Marry?. Balancing out day-to-day management of each of these networks under Schleiff’s leadership will be Kevin Bennett, who continues in his role as General Manager of ID and EVP of Programming for the portfolio; Jane Latman, currently General Manager of Discovery Life Channel, will become General Manager of AHC in addition to her duties as SVP of Development for ID; and Marc Etkind, who continues as General Manager of Destination America.
As part of the realignment, the company also announced today that Bob Scanlon has been named General Manager of Velocity and Automotive Content. Scanlon has led Velocity’s great stateside success – bringing the prestigious Barrett-Jackson auto auctions to Velocity; leading the network to become #1 in cable for men for networks under 70 million and the fastest-growing network in all of cable for men with shows like FantomWorks and Chasing Classic Cars. Many Velocity programs perform well around the world, so to maximize the growth of the company’s worldwide auto content engine, Scanlon will continue to report to Marjorie Kaplan in her new global role.
Finally, Discovery announced it will coordinate leadership of its global family brands and kids content strategy under Carolina Lightcap, head of content for Discovery Latin America and U.S. Hispanic Group. Discovery Family Channel General Manager Tom Cosgrove will now report to Lightcap. Discovery Kids’ global success has been remarkable, with six straight years as a top 10 channel across Latin America and the #1 pay TV channel in Brazil. Lightcap will draw on her track record both at Discovery, and previously with Disney Channels Worldwide, and partner with Cosgrove to lead Discovery Family’s opportunity in the U.S. marketplace.
“This strategic realignment positions Discovery well to drive our content engine across platforms here in the U.S. and worldwide, and creates the strongest pairings of creative talent to develop, program and lead these new brand groups now and into the future,” said Zaslav. “I believe some of Discovery’s best stories are yet to be told and I look forward to the growth and further development for each of our U.S. brands for years to come under this team’s strong creative leadership.”