EXCLUSIVE: That is a very fast rise. Less than a month after Brooke Runnette joined National Geographic Channel as VP Development and Special Projects, the former Discovery executive and Shark Week executive producer has been named president of National Geographic Television, the studio/documentary arm of the National Geographic Society. Runnette succeeds Maryanne Culpepper, who left in July after 16 years at NGT and 15 months as president. Runnette will transition to her new role over the next month. One of her first assignments at NatGeo was to oversee the network’s high-profile spring 2013 series The 80’s: The Decade That Made Us, which she will continue to executive produce. At NGT, Runnette will oversee the development and production of series, special events and live programming, reporting to John Fahey, National Geographic Society chairman and CEO.
Fahey has been shaking up the upper ranks at the 124-year-old nonprofit scientific and educational institution in an effort to bring it faster into the digital age as well as modernize its TV operation and expand its production capabilities. In addition to Culpepper, NGS president Tim Kelly announced in September that he will be leaving at the end of the year. “Our top priority at National Geographic Television is finding and producing the best content and original programming to support the international growth and influence of our cable channels around the world,” said Fahey. “Brooke joined the National Geographic Channels just as we were searching for the right executive to lead our television production group, and we quickly realized that she was the perfect fit for that key role — with the passion, drive, experience and industry knowledge that can continue and build the National Geographic Television franchise.”
Runnette is an Emmy- and Peabody Award-winning producer who was executive producer and director of development for specials at Discovery Channel, including ratings juggernaut Shark Week. She also led efforts within Discovery to work more closely with scientists and conservation organizations such as Oceana and the Pew Charitable Trust’s Global Shark Conservation group. Other specials Runnette oversaw while at Discovery included The Kennedy Detail, which was nominated for a News & Documentary Emmy Award, Discovery Channel’s 25th Anniversary Week, the Amelia Earhart expeditions and current affairs programming such as Secrets Of Seal Team 6. Prior to joining Discovery Channel, she worked at TLC as executive director of programming, where she was executive producer of the hit series Little People, Big World. Runnette also served as a producer at ABC News’ Nightline as well as Frontline, CBS’ 60 Minutes II and for Peter Jennings at ABC News, among others.