CEO David Zaslav shared the news with employees Friday. In an internal memo obtained by Deadline, Zaslav said the move follows “a few months of discussion” between and himself and Faricy. (Read the full memo below.)
Instead of a single head of the Global Direct-to-Consumer unit, Zaslav said three senior executives will report directly to him and share overall responsibilities.
Avi Saxena will continue to lead global technology. He will also oversee Food Network Kitchen and guide the direct-to-consumer product strategy for Magnolia, the company’s co-venture with lifestyle dynamos Chip and Joanna Gaines. Former Amazon exec Tyler Whitworth, who recently arrived at the company as SVP and GM of direct-to-consumer to oversee Food Network Kitchen, will report to Saxena.
Karen Leever will continue to oversee Discovery’s TV Everywhere/Go business, which allows free streaming for pay-TV subscribers. She will also continue as project and product lead for all the work around our aggregated app strategy in the U.S., Zaslav said.
The third top streaming exec is Hulu vet Lisa Holme, who joined Discovery in February as Group SVP, Content and Commercial Strategy, Direct-to-Consumer. She will retain responsibility for all the content and programming strategies around our aggregated app, as well as our partnership strategy.
As streaming first started to gain traction in the mid-2010s, Discovery pursued a relatively conservative strategy even as networks like CBS and HBO were testing the direct-to-consumer subscription waters. It emphasized securing distribution deals with internet-delivered “skinny bundles” and maintaining TV Everywhere apps in support of the traditional cable bundle.
Over time, skinny bundles started to decline and consumers started opting into more subscription services as they cut and shaved the cord. Discovery more recently has pursued more subscription offerings, rolling out streaming services dedicated to cooking, golf and cycling. Its Eurosport division has long operated a subscription service, Eurosport Player, which recently passed 1 million subscribers. TV Everywhere, at the same time, is still a significant revenue generator for Discovery. The company’s traditional pay-TV subscriber base, even as it shrinks, still throws off enviable cash flows and the TVE apps keep those wheels turning.
Food Network Kitchen launched last October as a $7-a-month streaming app with an Amazon partnership centered on cookware. Magnolia will launch its linear cable network in October, along with a TV Everywhere app. A Magnolia subscription streaming offering is on the road map for 2021, executives have said.
Here’s Zaslav’s full memo:
I want to update you on some important leadership changes across our Direct-to-Consumer businesses.
After a few months of discussions, Peter Faricy has decided that now is the right time to leave Discovery. I want to thank Peter for all of his hard work, and contributions which have allowed us to make meaningful progress. But I also recognize, and am grateful for, his personal sacrifices over the last 2 years, much of which he has spent away from his family in Seattle. Peter has decided that time with his family will come first once travel starts up again.
Under Peter’s leadership, we have built a formidable foundation to further deliver on our DTC strategy. One of his most significant achievements is the world-class leadership team he has helped us build across the DTC organization. Today, Discovery is fortunate to have such a strong, experienced and capable team. We have significantly more talent across tech, product and design, data and analytics, marketing, programming and operations and we will continue to invest in these critical areas.
Given this strong foundation and leadership team, we will not be replacing Peter’s role but rather take this opportunity to further elevate our DTC leaders and business, which should help streamline our decision making and further accelerate our progress.
So I am pleased to announce that Avi Saxena, Karen Leever and Lisa Holme will now report directly to me, effective immediately.
Avi will continue to lead all global technology and drive our ambition to have a best-in-class platform to enable great consumer experiences across all of our DTC products. Avi also will assume responsibility for Food Network Kitchen and the Magnolia DTC product strategy, with Tyler Whitworth now reporting to him.
Karen will continue to lead our fast-growing TVE/DGO business. She will also continue as project and product lead for all the work around our aggregated app strategy in the US.
Lisa, who heads up Content & Commercial Strategy, recently joined us from Hulu, where she handled Content Acquisitions. In a short period of time, Lisa has assumed an important leadership role in our DTC business, and will retain responsibility for all the content and programming strategies around our aggregated app, as well as our partnership strategy.
JB will now assume oversight for Dplay and all of our sports DTC offerings, as well as MotorTrend. Going forward, Win Kolasastraseni, Alex Kaplan and Alex Wellen will report directly to JB, effective immediately.
Win will continue to lead Dplay, our fast-growing consumer offering that will continue expanding into new markets and has huge potential to scale further with a compelling mix of entertainment and sports.
Given the global and sports-related connections of Discovery Golf and MotorTrend, we believe it makes the most sense to align these businesses with JB’s organization. Alex K will continue to run Discovery Golf, which includes GolfTV and Golf Digest, and Alex W will maintain his oversight of MotorTrend. Simon Wear, who heads GCN/Play Sports Network, will report into Andrew Georgiou so they can collaborate even more closely to drive cycling as a critical part of our sports portfolio.
DTC is critical to our future, and I look forward to working even more closely with these exceptional executives, as well as the entire DTC organization. We will continue to drive strong communication and collaboration across all our DTC products and teams, as well as further develop key global DTC capabilities such as product and technology, performance marketing, data and analytics, and customers service – critical competencies we must master. I remain very confident about the power of our brands, appeal of our authentic talent, passion and loyalty of our fans, and our ability to transform the company to be successful in the new streaming ecosystem that is taking hold around the world.
Please join me in wishing Peter all the best. We are grateful for his contributions and are in terrific hands with the leadership team he has built to drive our DTC strategy forward.
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