howardowensHoward Owens will step down as President of National Geographic Channels U.S. in June after two and a half years on the job. “Our President and my friend Howard Owens is moving on – flying out the window of National Geographic and into the free world of independent production,” National Geographic Channels U.S. CEO David Lyle said this morning in a memo to staff informing them of the move (Full memo after the jump). Owens  joined the channel in late 2011, replacing Steve Schiffman. He launched such series as Wicked Tuna, Brain Games, Ultimate Survival Alaska, Life Below Zero, The Legend Of Mick Dodge and Inside Combat Rescue. He also introduced scripted programming to the channel with the highly rated Killing franchise: Killing Lincoln, Killing Kennedy and the upcoming Killing Jesus, as well as event programming with SEAL Team Six and The ’80s: The Decade That Made Us to NGC. Owens also served as president at Nat Geo WILD, shepherding such series as The Incredible Dr. Pol and Cesar 911. “We have truly benefited from Howard’s zeal for bringing audiences innovative programming that underscores the uniqueness and depth of the National Geographic Channels brand,” said Peter Rice, Chairman and CEO of Fox Networks Group.  “From a creative and programming perspective, Howard’s work consistently broke new ground, and National Geographic Channels are uniquely positioned for the future as a result of his efforts.”

Prior to joining National Geographic Channels, Owens was a longtime executive at Reveille. “As I get ready for my next adventure I can’t help but reflect on what has been an incredible experience for me, both personally and professionally,” he said. “National Geographic Channels have some of the brightest minds in the television business, and I’m proud of the work we have accomplished together — specifically in defining the National Geographic Channels as a destination for innovative, original and brand-defining creativity.” Here is Lyle’s memo to staff:

Good morning everyone, and great ratings last Thursday on NGC and Saturday’s premiere of Dr. Oakley on Nat Geo WILD is looking strong!

Sorry to be a downer on Monday morning, but TV is about change, and this morning there is going to be announced a change of mighty proportions.

Our President and my friend Howard Owens is moving on – flying out the window of National Geographic and into the free world of independent production.
It is hard for me to summarize Howard’s importance to the channels these last three years…. His passion, his judgment, his unwillingness to accept second best, his taste, his contacts, his production experience – all wrapped up in his huge drive and delightful chaos have been crucial to all the success we have had in the last couple of years.

As a senior TV executive, I am supposed to say everybody is replaceable, but in Howard’s case I say without a shadow of a doubt, we couldn’t have done it without him.

We will, in the best traditions here, have a drink this afternoon to wish him well.

The announcement (attached) goes out in a moment, and the timing of the drinks will follow.

Thanks.

-David