Discovery Communications has unveiled its new senior leadership plan for after it finalizes its $14.6 billion acquisition of Scripps Networks Interactive. The big news: Rich Ross, currently Group President of Discovery Channel and Science Channel, will be leaving the company.
In the other biggest portion of the exec revamp revealed today, Kathleen Finch, currently Chief Programming, Content & Brand Officer for all six Scripps Networks brands, will become Chief Lifestyle Brands Officer for the combined company She will have management oversight of HGTV, Food Network, TLC, ID, Travel Channel, DIY Network, Cooking Channel, Discovery Life, American Heroes Channel, Destination America, Great American Country and Lifestyle Digital Studios in the U.S.
Nancy Daniels, currently President of TLC, will assume the new role of Chief Brand Officer, Discovery & Factual, effective immediately. She will lead all aspects of Discovery Channel and the Science Channel brands, which had been Ross’ remit.
Henry Schleiff will continue as Group President for ID, Destination America and American Heroes Channel. Howard Lee, EVP Development & Production for TLC and GM of Discovery Life, has been upped to President and GM for TLC and Discovery Life, effective immediately. Both Schleiff and Lee will report to Finch.
Susanna Dinnage, currently serving as Global President of the Animal Planet network in the U.S. and Animal Planet brand worldwide, will continue in the role, as will OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network President Erik Logan, reporting to the OWN Venture board of directors.
Discovery announced a deal to acquire Scripps in July 2017.
Ross, the onetime Walt Disney Studios and Shine America chief, was a big hire for David Zazlav in October 2014 when he was named president of the flagship Discovery Channel.
Ross joined attempting to boost the original programming slate at Discovery Channel, but as late as yesterday Discovery president and CEO David Zaslav underscored the company’s commitment to unscripted TV programming, which he described as more profitable and viable. He called it “a high-stakes game that not everyone can win. That’s not us. We’re on the other side of the ledger.”
Finch and Daniels both have unscripted roots.
On Tuesday, Discovery reported solid fourth-quarter and full-year results, noting it had received Department of Justice approval the Scripps acquisition. The European Commission approved the deal in early February. The deal is expected to formally close in two weeks.
“Today’s announcement is another major milestone in combining these two fantastic companies into a new kind of media company with the most trusted portfolio of real life entertainment brands in the world,” said Zaslav in announcing the moves today. “Upon closing, each division will have a best-in-class leader focused on quickly integrating the combined teams to create new ways for advertisers and distributors to reach highly targeted audiences at scale; capturing operating efficiencies across both companies; and driving innovation to continue telling great stories and nourishing our passionate, loyal superfans around the world across every consumer screen, service and platform.”
Also announced today, Discovery’s CFO Gunnar Wiedenfels; Discovery Networks International president and CEO Jean-Briac Perrette; Chief Human Resources and Global Diversity Officer Adria Alpert Romm; and Discovery Chief Development, Distribution and Legal Officer Bruce Campbell will continued in those roles for the combined company.
Karen Leever, the EVP and GM of Digital Media U.S., and Mike Lang, President, Discovery Networks International Digital & CEO TEN/MotorTrend, will continue in those roles, reporting to Zaslav.
Eric Phillips, President, Affiliate Distribution, will lead the combined company’s linear, non-linear and mobile distribution efforts in the U.S. & Canada. Discovery’s General Counsel, Savalle Sims, will also stay put. Both will report to Campbell.
David Leavy, currently Discovery’s Chief Corporate Operations and Communications Officer, will continue in that role with oversight of the company’s global technology operations. Discovery’s John Honeycutt will be the combined company’s Chief Technology Officer and continue to report to Leavy.
Jon Steinlauf, currently President of National Ad Sales and Marketing for Scripps Networks, will become Chief U.S. Advertising Sales Officer. Ben Price, President of U.S. Ad Sales for Discovery, and Leigh Anne Brodsky, EVP Discovery Global Enterprises, will report to Steinlauf.