Several big changes today at Discovery Communications:
- Discovery Channel chief Rich Ross was just named Group President for channels that will also include Animal Planet and Science Channel. Rita Mullin will continue to lead the Science Channel, but report to Ross. So will Animal Planet GM Rick Holzman. He had worked for Marjorie Kaplan, who was given a new job last week as President of Content for Discovery Networks International.
- TLC General Manager Nancy Daniels now also has Discovery Life Channel. Howard Lee will be General Manager of Discovery Life, reporting to Daniels.
- Discovery says that Henry Schleiff will continue to be a Group President overseeing Investigation Discovery, American Heroes Channel and Destination America. Kevin Bennett remains General Manager of ID and EVP Programming for the portfolio. Discovery Life Channel GM Jane Latman becomes GM of AHC as well as SVP Development for ID. Marc Etkind continues as General Manager of Destination America.
- Velocity’s Bob Scanlon is now General Manager of Velocity and Automotive Content.
- Carolina Lightcap — the head of content for Discovery Latin America and U.S. Hispanic Group.– will oversee global family brands and kids content. Discovery Family Channel General Manager Tom Cosgrove will report to her.
“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,” CEO David Zaslav says. “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.”
Like a lot of pay TV programmers, Discovery is struggling to impress investors following a period of declining ratings and underwhelming ad sales — and amid fears that many will be squeezed by cord cutting and skinny bundles. Its shares have lost about a third of their value over the last 12 months.
Primetime ratings collectively fell about 3.2% in Q2, Piper Jaffray’s James Marsh figures, with Discovery up 7% and TLC down 20%.
Discovery Channel stood out, boasting its highest-rated 2Q across both viewers and men in the 25-54 ad bracket it targets, and in overall audience with Live+3 ratings since at least 1994. That put a halo on Ross. Last week Zaslav credited him for doing “a fantastic job of creating and building programming” that appeals to the channel’s “core male viewers while attracting more diverse audiences including women, Millennials, Hispanic viewers and family co-viewing.”
Programming decisions are especially important as the company plans to boost spending on shows and marketing.
It has little margin for error. After borrowing heavily to buy overseas assets including Eurosport, the company told analysts last week that it may have less cash available this year than it expected. Many were disappointed when it added that, in order to maintain its BBB bond rating, it will stop buying back its shares for a while.