ViacomCBS’ MTV Entertainment Group (formerly Entertainment & Youth) has named PBS NewsHour and former Nightline producer James F. Blue III as SVP, Head of Smithsonian Channel. Blue will also oversee News and Factual Unscripted content for MTV Entertainment’s portfolio of brands across streaming, linear and digital, dual-reporting to Chris McCarthy, President, MTV Entertainment Group and Nina L. Diaz, President of Content and Chief Creative Officer.
Blue replaces Tom Hayden, former President of Smithsonian Networks, who exited in May amid the ViacomCBS integration of its entertainment and youth groups.
Working with Smithsonian Institution, Blue will lead, expand and diversify Smithsonian Channel’s content offerings to build on its momentum and support the Institution’s efforts to engage, inspire and educate. His oversight will also include content creation and all related experiential and event programming.
“MTV Entertainment has an extraordinarily talented team, and I am thrilled to be joining them,” said Blue. “I look forward to leveraging my expertise and experience to help shape and implement MTV Entertainment’s strategic vision for Smithsonian and other news, factual and non-fiction content across, and even beyond, the Group’s platforms.”
Most recently, Blue served as the special projects and senior producer of PBS NewsHour where he oversaw NewsHour specials and served as the executive producer’s primary deputy for the daily broadcast. He also managed several NewsHour reporting initiatives, including Searching for Justice, Race Matters, and Chasing the Dream. During the 2012 election cycle, Blue was an executive producer for BET Networks’ political broadcasts that included exclusive interviews with President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama as well as extensive coverage of Republican nominee, Mitt Romney. As an independent producer, Blue executive produced BET’s coverage of Michelle Obama’s historic trip to South Africa and Botswana and undertook projects for UNICEF, the International Labor Organization (ILO), and Johns Hopkins University, among others. From 2006 to 2009, he served as a producer in the Koppel Group at the Discovery Channel. His debut documentary for Discovery, Iran – Most Dangerous Nation, won an Emmy® Award for best long-form program. Blue worked the preceding 14 years as a producer for ABC News (including 9 years at Nightline) and NBC News with postings in New York, Washington, DC and London.
“Smithsonian is a world-class brand rich with treasures from our shared American experience,” said McCarthy. “James is an exceptionally talented executive and incredible storyteller who will bring those iconic treasures and experiences to life across all of our platforms.”
“James’ illustrious storytelling skills make him the perfect fit to lead this next chapter of the Smithsonian Channel,” said Diaz. “With endless material to unleash, I can’t wait to see his unique vision for this storied brand come to life.”
Over the course of his career, Blue earned eight national Emmy awards; two Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia Awards; five George Foster Peabody Awards; two Overseas Press Club Awards; the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Television Political Journalism; and the NABJ Award for Overall Excellence. Blue has been a finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists on two separate occasions. An adjunct professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, he also serves as a trustee of the Maryland Institute College of Art and is a member of the Overseas Press Club, the National Association of Black Journalists, and the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association. Blue is a graduate of Princeton University’s School of Public and International Affairs.
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