Discovery Channel chief Rich Ross is winding up his honeymoon month in the job by creating a New York-based production and development unit for the network, and moving Matthew Kelly and Michael Sorensen from Discovery Communications’ Silver Spring, MD HQ to New York to oversee unscripted series for the new unit. They will be reporting to Denise Contis, the EVP of Production and Development for the network. The move comes on the heels of Ross’ hire of HBO veteran John Hoffman as as Executive Vice President of Documentaries and Specials for Discovery Channel in New York.
“As Discovery Channel creates and delivers more programming to more viewers across all platforms, having a robust development and production team in New York is a crucial and necessary move,” Ross said of the move.
Kelly is VP Development and Production; he developed the network’s No. 1 series, Gold Rush, and Edge Of Alaska while overseeing select productions, including Yukon Men and Amish Mafia. Kelly earlier developed programming for Discovery Channel that included Man, Woman Wild, and the four-part documentary series Gold Fever. Sorensen also is VP Development and Production for the channel and, during his tenure, he has developed and produced programming for Shark Week, and such series and specials as Nik Wallenda’s two highwire walks, and Bering Sea Gold: Under The Ice, among others.
Earlier this month,TV critics fell deeply, madly in love with Ross in his first appearance with Discovery Channel 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.”
Ross, who was named to the gig in October, but only officially took over this month, said Discovery Channel is “more narrowly niched than it needs to be,” 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.”
“The fervor of that story kind of got out of control.” Ross said of the fake stuff, adding 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.”
Minutes later, Ross was trending on Twitter.