Discovery Networks International Realigns Euro Operations; Ups Key Execs

After ramping up its European expansion in the past several years, Discovery Networks International is realigning its European operations into three distinct business clusters: Discovery Networks Northern Europe; Discovery Networks Central & Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa; and Discovery Networks Southern Europe. The company has made a series of acquisitions in recent years including taking a controlling stake in pan-European platform Eurosport, and buying the SBS Nordic operations of Germany’s ProSiebenSat.1. Parent Discovery Communications’ offshore revenues now exceed those of the U.S., and the international networks division recently delivered a 3rd straight record quarter in viewership, reaching 643M viewers outside the U.S. during Q3 of 2014. Dividing the European operations is intended to unlock new growth opportunities, maximize operational effectiveness and increase revenue across the continent and beyond.

Dee Forbes has been named President and Managing Director of Discovery Networks Northern Europe. The division will encompass the UK, Ireland, the Nordics and Benelux. The exec has been involved in transforming Discovery’s business across mature markets in Western Europe with a hybrid portfolio of free-to-air and pay-TV brands. She was also involved in the SBS acquisition, which was the largest transaction in the company’s history and increased its footprint from eight to 20 TV networks in the region. The networks will now be further combined with Discovery’s core business, the company said today. Henrik Ravn, who has managed Discovery’s operations in the Nordics since the acquisition of SBS in 2012, will step down at the end of the year.

Kasia Kieli will add Germany, Austria and Switzerland to her portfolio as President and Managing Director of Discovery Networks Central & Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa. Germany was the first Discovery market to launch a free-to-air channel business with DMAX in 2006. Eurosport also operates in Germany, Austria and Switzerland as a free-to-air channel. The CEEMEA business will be based in Munich.

Marinella Soldi has been named President and Managing Director of Discovery Networks Southern Europe and will add France to her current oversight of Italy, Spain and Portugal. Under Soldi’s stewardship, Discovery became the third biggest broadcaster in Italy. She also successfully launched Discovery Max in Spain during the height of the recession. Discovery’s portfolio in France has historically has been relatively small, but following the acquisition of Paris-headquartered Eurosport, the market is picking up strategic importance.

JB Perrette, President, Discovery Networks International, said, “Dee Forbes, Kasia Kieli and Marinella Soldi are exceptional leaders with demonstrated track records of building value for our company and these changes will enable them to better capitalize on the benefits of having a mix of free-to-air and pay-TV businesses across Europe. I am grateful to Henrik for shepherding recent successes with the invaluable support of his talented management team and wish him every success in his future endeavors.”

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