ION Media Networks, the largest broadcast TV station group in the U.S., is making a headstrong charge into original programming, hiring Zodiak USA’s New York-based senior VP Lauren Gellert (pictured) to oversee the effort, realscreen has learned.
According to knowledgeable sources close to both ION and Zodiak, Gellert will take on the new role of VP of production and development at ION at the end of this month, having left her role at Zodiak last week. ION owns and operates 59 television stations across America, reaching more than 98 million homes in the U.S. via broadcast, cable and satellite.
To date, ION has largely acquired content, however with Gellert’s arrival it will begin to develop its own original series for its stations, including its flagship general entertainment network ION Television, which airs series, theatrical and made-for-TV movies, specials and sports.
Gellert will work with and report to John Ford, the former Discovery and Nat Geo topper who joined ION last November as president of programming.
At that time, ION announced that Ford’s remit would include “exploring originals,” with ION CEO Brandon Burgess saying that a number of different content sources – including coproductions and unscripted reality content – would be “on the table” going forward.
In her role at Zodiak, Gellert was responsible for creating and developing unscripted series and specials, as well as overseeing projects in various stages of development. Zodiak has yet to announce a replacement, and is understood to be recruiting at present.
Prior to joining Zodiak in 2009, Gellert served as VP of alternative programming at TruTV, where she proved instrumental in helping transition the network to an original lineup, featuring series such as Most Shocking, Speeders and Black Gold, as it flipped from Court TV to TruTV.
A spokesman for Zodiak USA could not be reached for comment at press time.