Bye bye, men eaten by snakes!
So long, mermaids!
Don’t let the door hit you on the way out, Megalodons!
TV critics fell deeply, madly in love with new Discovery Channel chief Rich Ross this morning at Winter TV press Tour 2015 when he said he would not continue the network’s trend of telecasting fake stuff.
“It’s not whether I’m a fan of it,” Ross said, which critics let slide. “I don’t think it’s right for Discovery Channel, and think it’s something that has run its course. They’ve done very well… but I don’t think it’s something that’s right for us.”
Critics came ready to do battle with the new programming chief over some of the programs they most love to hate on the brand they once adored. That includes its two fake mermaid documentaries, and two suggesting the Megalodon still roams the ocean — the second of which, Megalodon: The New Evidence became the highest rated episode of the network’s most recent Shark Week, with 4.8 million viewers.
So excited did the critics become with his news, they started asking Ross if he’d kill Finding Bigfoot – and maybe some of the freak-show series like My Crazy Obsession — on other Discovery Communications networks Ross is not tasked with overseeing.
Once he’d explained patiently to them that he “just has to worry about what I do,” they settled down and got back to Discovery Channel shows.
“Do you haves plans to repair relationships with scientists and educators who felt those shows betrayed a mission and gave false information?” one critic asked eagerly.
Ross explained patiently he’d made a very strong statement this morning as to the direction in which he’s taking Discovery Channel, naming HBO veteran John Hoffman as Executive Vice President of Documentaries and Specials. “This was not just a signal, it was a message that it’s very important to us, and to me, that when people are telling stories and they’re delivering information that it is true and can be entertaining as well, which is mandatory.”
Discovery is “more narrowly niched than it needs to be,” Ross said, and that he intends to return Discovery Channel to the “No. 1 brand for whole family and not just for the men in the family.”
Even beauty pageant questions, like “What is your dream project?” he kept on-point, responding he’s looking for programs that “impact people to do something,” hinting he thinks history programming is “underutilized,” and is looking at a couple of pieces of scripted programming along those lines. His idea of an ideal Discovery show is one that “makes people care and do something about it.”
Discovery’s recent, critically reviled Eaten Alive, was “the right intention, with a packaging that was deeply misleading,” Ross said. Its star and would be snake snack, tour guide/snake enthusiast Paul Rosolie cares deeply about snakes and wanted to draw attention” to them, Ross said generously; TV critics who thought Rosolie cared most deeply about promoting Rosolie let that slide too. “To me you don’t have to be so sensational, and over-promise,” he said of that show. “The fervor of that story kind of got out of control.” Ross said he’d rather program a special in which “the story is clearer and it is what you want to watch but you don’t expect something at the end of it that can’t possibly happen.”
“I don’t believe you’ll see a person being eaten by a snake in my time – I can’t over-promise that, but that’s how I feel today,” Ross said, as TV critics resisted the urge to give him a standing ovation.
Minutes later, Ross was trending on Twitter.
Ross was named President of Discovery Channel in late October, but only officially joined this month, based at the company’s L.A. office. Ross will oversee creative and brand strategy, development, production, marketing and all day-to-day operations for the network and report to David Zaslav, President and CEO of Discovery Communications. He joined Discovery from Shine America where, as CEO, he oversaw all aspects of Shine America’s production, distribution and marketing of original programming, including Fox’s MasterChef and MasterChef Junior, NBC’s The Biggest Loser, Oxygen’s The Face, CNBC’s Restaurant Startup, TruTV’s Fake-Off, FX’s The Bridge, Fox’s Gracepoint, etc.
Ross replaced Marjorie Kaplan, who only held the Discovery Channel job on an interim basis, after Zaslav named former network chief Eileen O’Neill Global Group President at Discovery Studios in one of those executive shakeups for which he’s so well known. O’Neill, a 25-year Discovery exec, was assigned to lead its worldwide production division, overseeing all international facilities and creative talent at Discovery Studios.