Dirk Hoogstra, former general manager of History and H2, has joined Stephen David Entertainment as chief creative officer. This is a high-profile executive hire for David’s Banijay Entertainment-owned independent studio. Hoogstra will oversee development, packaging and sales, shepherding new and current projects.
Hoogstra left History in September to return to producing. David, who had supplied projects for Hoogstra during his executive stints at TLC and History, was among those who called him after his departure from History and, after considering several opportunities, Hoogstra decided to go with SDE. David’s company is probably best known for its docudrama series that blend documentary and reenactments, including Sons of Liberty and The Men Who Built America at History, on which David worked with Hoogstra, as well as The Making of the Mob franchise and the upcoming The West at AMC.
The hybrid genre as well as unscripted series will continue to be a part of SDE’s programming portfolio as Hoogstra is expected to make a major push in scripted projects. That has been his passion, and he ushered in scripted programming on History with Htfields & McCpys, The Bible and Vikings.
To enter the scripted arena — both for traditional TV and digital — SDE will rely on the financial resources and distribution capabilities of its parent company Banijay-Zodiak, in which Vivendi just bought a stake for $311 million.
“There is no one way that this is going to work — we have the flexibility and backing to pursue different models of how we can put projects together,” David said. That will include fully self-financing some projects as well as working with international financing and co-productions, efforts that Hoogstra will shepherd. “There are a lot of buyers looking for premium content,” David said. “We are looking to put together big projects that are hard to say ‘no’ to.”
As for specific scripted genres, Hoogstra has experience with both male-skewing and female-skewing fare from his stints at History and TLC. “I happen to love sci-fi, I like genre shows,” Hoogstra said. “After 20 years in the cable business, I want to work on things that I would watch, things that I really care about.”
That was common ground he found with David. Hoogstra already knew the two had similar interests and had been impressed by how much David “really cares about the quality of content he is putting on the air,” he said. “What Stephen and I agree upon is that we will go for high quality and will be passionate about the things we are doing.” There are no hard deadlines but the plan is “being in production on several packaged projects as early as 2016,” Hoogstra said.
Hoogstra served as EVP and General Manager of History and H2 for two years. Before being named to the position in June 2013, he was EVP, Development and Programming for the networks. He joined History in 2007 as VP. Prior to that, Hoogstra spent 11 years at Discovery Networks, holding development and programming roles at Discovery Channel, TLC and Discovery Networks International.