After weeks of speculation concerning a rumored large-scale shuffle, Discovery Communications announced a major reorganization of its U.S. networks in mid-December, which will see brands ‘targeting similar viewer demographics and content genres’ grouped together.
The flagship Discovery Channel has been grouped with Science Channel, to be led by president and GM W. Clark Bunting, who will be replacing John Ford. Bunting, a 24-year Discovery veteran, previously headed up the Emerging Networks division. He also previously served as the flagship channel’s GM, where he oversaw the development of assorted Discovery staple series including Deadliest Catch and MythBusters. Debbie Myers will continue as GM of Science Channel, reporting to Bunting. Discovery’s press release did not indicate Ford’s future plans.
Investigation Discovery (ID) has now been grouped with Discovery’s male-targeted networks Military Channel and HD Theater, with Henry Schleiff as GM. Schleiff joined Discovery in August 2009, and will report directly to Discovery Communications president and CEO David Zaslav. Meanwhile, Planet Green is now grouped with female-targeted networks Discovery Health and FitTV, with Planet Green’s Laura Michalchyshyn as GM for the group. Michalchyshyn joined Discovery in February of last year and was behind expanding the programming mandate of the channel, which launched in June of 2008 as a predominantly eco-oriented network. Part of Michalchyshyn’s remit now includes overseeing the transitioning of Discovery Health to the Oprah Winfrey Network, which is scheduled to launch in 2011 (see Ingenious, pg. 27). TLC and Animal Planet remain relatively untouched, headed by Eileen O’Neill and Marjorie Kaplan, respectively.
Current Discovery Health and FitTV general manager Carole Tomko will report to chief operating officer Peter Liguori, as president of Discovery Studios. Part of her responsibilities will include overseeing Discovery Studios’ production of the upcoming CURIOSITY: The Questions of Life.
‘With [this] announcement, we are recognizing the inherent operational efficiencies that exist between our brands and getting the most from the exceptional creative talent we have on our roster,’ said Zaslav.
The organizational shuffle came in the wake of news of changes at Discovery Networks International (DNI), which saw Mark Hollinger, who recently served as COO for Discovery Communications, named as DNI’s president and CEO, replacing Greg Ricca. Hollinger, who joined the company in 1991 as vice president and deputy general counsel, was also integral to the launch of Discovery Channel Asia, working as acting general manager for the operation in 1994.
‘Building strong brands and growing audience share around the world is one of our key growth opportunities, and Mark’s fluency in Discovery’s global business, strong leadership skills and vision to grow the business makes him the ideal executive to lead Discovery Networks International into the future,’ said Zaslav at the time of the announcement. Peter Liguori, most recently the former president of entertainment at Fox Broadcasting Company, was named as Discovery Communications COO a week after the news broke of Hollinger’s move, and began his new role at the company on January 19 of this year.