Discovery exec Henry Schleiff to depart, Jason Sarlanis upped, Howard Lee expands remit

Henry Schleiff (pictured) is stepping down from Discovery as group president of ID, Travel Channel, AHC and Destination America at the end of this year to pursue his “passion for independent ...
July 29, 2021

Henry Schleiff (pictured) is stepping down from Discovery as group president of ID, Travel Channel, AHC and Destination America at the end of this year to pursue his “passion for independent production,” and has set a first-look deal with Discovery networks.

The departure will see lifestyle programming veteran Jason Sarlanis – most recently TLC’s VP of development — promoted to president, crime and investigation content, linear and streaming, effective Sept. 1.

He will assume leadership for ID, including leading programming development, production, and content strategy and operations for true crime series and docs. Sarlanis will also have responsibility for the genre on Discovery+.

“Jason has done a fantastic job spearheading the expansion of the 90-Day franchise at TLC under Howard Lee‘s leadership. We are thrilled to bring some of the magic behind 90-Day and Jason’s nose for cultural buzz to ID as well as to Discovery+, where his genres are among our most popular. Jason will also assume responsibility for AHC and Destination America,” Kathleen Finch, chief lifestyle brands officer at Discovery, Inc., and CEO David Zaslav wrote in a memo to staff.

Kevin Bennett, currently group EVP, programming, and general manager at Investigation Discovery, will also exit in September, to “look for new challenges.”

Finch also announced that Lee, president of TLC streaming and network originals, will add Travel Channel to his responsibilities.

Matthew Butler, general manager of Travel Channel, will report to Lee. Sarlanis, who previously reported to Lee, will now report directly to Finch.

The memo from Finch and Zaslav continued: “From the moment Henry walked into my office 12 years ago, he made an immediate impact on our company. He had a vision to make ID the number one crime network, and talked with conviction about his experience launching Court TV and understanding the importance of talent, buzz and a great story. Henry and his amazing team not only made ID the top crime network, they made it a top five network in all of cable. Since he started, ID has been one of the great growth stories in TV, having positioned the company to be a leader in True Crime across linear, streaming and Discovery+, as well as a global leader that expanded Discovery’s portfolio to complement and compete in almost every market in the world.”

Schleiff said in a note: “It’s been an honor – and, frankly, a lot of fun – to lead my group of networks here at Discovery over the last several years – and, especially, to see the success and unprecedented growth of ID with its informative, entertaining – on occasion, perhaps, inspiring programming. And, of course, those stunts and titles: anything better than Wives With Knives?

“Our performance has been due in no small measure from the support at the top from Zas, Kathleen and others – and, even more so, from the uniquely talented and dedicated team I have been fortunate to guide me, correct me – and, laugh with me.

“With my networks now positioned for the next act in their contributions to what will be an even larger and more successful company, I thought year end would be the perfect time to step back from my corporate responsibilities and enjoy the opportunity I will then have to produce for a marketplace that is so clearly growing in demand for new content, in all formats. The timing of all this will also allow me to be more active as a board member at my various not-for-profits, including UNICEF and RFK Human Rights – and, to contribute to the Innocence Project. Indeed, my sadness in leaving is well offset by the excitement of working with old friends and new, with the common goal of success… and, fun!”

About The Author
Jillian Morgan is the Associate Editor at Realscreen with a background in journalism and digital marketing. She joined the publication in 2019 after serving as the assistant editor to trade publications HPAC and On-Site. With a bachelor of journalism from the University of King's College in Halifax, she also works as a freelance writer and fact-checker.