Dude, you’re renewed! Deadline has learned that Discovery quietly has ordered a second season of reality competition series Dude, You’re Screwed from High Noon Entertainment. A twist on the survival genre, the series follows five of the world’s …
Discovery Redistributes Networks Among Group Presidents Eileen O’Neill, Marjorie Kaplan, Henry Schleiff
In a re-alignment of its U.S. network portfolio, Discovery Communications has named Eileen O’Neill to be Group President of the Discovery Channel and has been given oversight of Science Channel and Velocity — two networks seen to have tremendous growth opportunity. TLC, which O’Neill is credited with turning around, has been given to the care of Marjorie Kaplan, who becomes Group President of TLC and Animal Planet, while Henry Schleiff adds O’Neill’s Discovery Fit & Health network to his watch, as Group President of that network and Investigation Discovery, Destination America, and American Heroes Channel.
“Nearly 70% of our global output is developed, commissioned and acquired in the U.S.,” company CEO David Zaslav said this morning in a memo to staff. “Most of our big characters, new franchises and tent pole specials have been developed by U.S. Network creative teams. We continue to invest in new international and local content, but it turns out that Gold Rush, River Monsters and I (Almost) Got Away With It attract an audience in almost every market in the world. The optionality of sharing our programming across so many brands and countries, and lining up that domestic content engine to support our global distribution growth overall, is key to our success.” He noted the cpmpany’s marketshare in the U.S. is up significantly over the past six years, growing from 5% in 2007 to nearly 12% today, “and that creative output has helped drive marketshare growth of nearly 25% internationally during the same time.”
“It’s another piece of American madness,” Sam Shepard said today of Discovery‘s first scripted project, Klondike. “You know, another chunk of insanity that we carry around with us, regardless of whether it’s involved in technology or involved in trapping beavers.” In December, Discovery announced its miniseries about the Klondike Gold Rush of 1895, co-produced by Scott Free Television, eOne and Nomadic Pictures and based on Canadian journalist Charlotte Gray’s novel Gold Diggers: Striking It Rich In The Klondike. The script, written by Prison Break creator Paul Scheuring, tells the story of six strangers and their collective fight for survival and wealth in a small frontier town in the remote Klondike. Chris Cooper, cast in February as Father Judge — who has come to Klondike to atone for his violent past on a mission to save souls — exited in March after suffering a minor heart attack. Shepard replaced him.
One TV critic wanted to know if Scheuring was intimidated writing for actor-playwright Shepard. “I wrote it before I knew he was going to be Judge – it’s easy to write in a vacuum.” he responded. That said, Shepard “was willing to collaborate; he had his thoughts,” he continued, adding quickly, “It’s obviously an honor – he’s Sam Shepard!” Shepard didn’t think much of a question about the difference between wearing the “writer hat” and the “actor hat.” “Hats look exactly the same. There’s no difference between The Writing Hat and The Acting Hat,” he said dismissively.
A question about his “motivation” for taking on this role, and whether his motivation for accepting roles has changed over his long career, didn’t play too well either. “Yeah. I was out of work…the landlord was going to kick me out,” he responded.
Discovery is renaming its Military Channel — now called American Heroes Channel, as of March 3. ”This newly renamed network is an intersection of miltiary and history programming, and looks to substantially broaden its current appeal, said Henry Schleiff, who oversees the network among other Discovery platforms. That includes programming about fireman, policemen, “and those who don’t necessarily wear a uniform.” The emphasis will still be on male viewers, he added. Heroism transcends the military, TV critics attending the TCA Winter Press Tour 2014 were told — and the explanation that when the channel launched in the midst of two wars, military and military issues were hot. American Heroes Channel’s first year will include 17 new series and specials, with four original series and specials launching in the first week. Premiere week programming will include: Raw War: The Lost Film Of Dak To, Against the Odds, CIA: Declassified, and Codes & Conspiracies.
The network then moved straight into its military show Q&A session for Against The Odds, billed as “the real-life Band Of Brothers,” featuring, among others, the genuinely emotional — not often seen at the press tour — World War II vet William Steele Sr, who noted, “This country was united” during WWII. “Roosevelt and Eisenhower were together. That’s what we need now,” he said, getting choked up. “War – we will always have them somehow…will be somebody shooting at one another. The bombing of us — that united us and everybody was supportive of us.” He added: “When I came home from overseas — I get a little emotional — when I come home and got off the ship in San Francisco, there was no band,” Steele said, fighting tears. “I walked down the plank…to a plot of grass and kissed it…. When you’re in war you don’t fight for honor — you fight for defense of each other. The heroes of war are the ones that didn’t come home.”
Discovery Channel has ordered a new series, The West, from Robert Redford and Laura Michalchyshyn’s Sundance Productions. The West will focus on the wilderness, frontier lawlessness, and bloodshed of the 40 years between the end of the American Civil War until after the turn of the 20th Century.
From today’s announcement:
Discovery Channel announces today that it is in production of an all-new series, THE WEST, produced for Discovery by Robert Redford and Laura Michalchyshyn’s Sundance Productions, who recently produced Discovery Channel’s Emmy Award nominated documentary All the President’s Men Revisited, and Stephen David Entertainment, known for its two-time Emmy Award winning series, The Men Who Built America. THE WEST is set to premiere in 2014.
Nancy Daniels, general manager of Discovery Communications’ Discovery Fit & Health, is returning to TLC as its new GM. Daniels, who also was serving as Discovery Channel’s EVP Production & Development, is replacing Amy Winter who stepped down from the post last month but will remain with the net as EVP Brand Marketing. Winter, who’d told staff that her plans to relocate her family from Atlanta didn’t work out as planned, came to the post from a marketing position — Daniels is a programmer. As TLC’s SVP Production and Development, she oversaw the launch of Cake Boss, The Little Couple, Sister Wives and Sarah Palin’s Alaska. More recently, at Discovery Channel, she oversaw live events — Skywire Live, for example. She also oversaw such popular Discovery series as including Bering Sea Gold, Naked And Afraid, Deadliest Catch, Mythbusters as well as the All the President’s Men Revisited special. At Discovery Fit & Health, Daniels managed day-to-day operations. In her new gig, she will report to Eileen O’Neill, Group President, Discovery and TLC Networks.
Discovery Communications has promoted Robert Scanlon to general manager of Velocity network. Since October of 2011, Scanlon has been SVP at the network, which made news recently when Patrick Dempsey, star of its four-part miniseries Patrick Dempsey: Racing Le Mans, told the press at TCA Summer TV Press Tour 2013 that acting — the thing he does on ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy — is that which he does in order to finance his real love, which is race car driving. From today’s announcement:
This was a complicated quarter: In April Discovery closed its $1.7B acquisition of SBS Nordic, the Scandinavian TV and radio company. Even so, investors had high expectations for the company that the Q2 numbers out this morning missed. Net …
EXCLUSIVE: The revolving door at OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network continues. The latest high-level executive to depart the struggling cable network is SVP Business and Legal Affairs Alan Saxe, a well-respected executive who ran OWN’s business affairs department. In light of his departure (he reportedly left to pursue other opportunities), Tina Perry, VP Business and Legal Affairs, will lead the department as interim head. Saxe is the latest in a slew of executive departures at OWN, most recently EVP Production and Development Lisa Erspamer.
Meanwhile, OWN has been in cost-cutting mode after an yearlong struggle to break out in the ratings despite a marquee brand name and massive cash infusion from co-parent Discovery Communications. I hear the network’s executives have been told that the business in its current form is unsustainable and cuts have to be made, especially in the main Los Angeles office. Leading the charge in that area is new Discovery CFO Andy Warren, who has been examining OWN’s books. In one cost-cutting measure, OWN was recently asked to eliminate temp positions. The network has had a lot of essential positions, including assistants, filled by non-full-time employees, something that will now end.
3net, the joint venture 24/7 3D network from Sony, Discovery and IMAX, announced the debut of the world’s first dedicated kids 3D programming block with two all-new animated 3D series – Bolts & Blip and Dream Defenders — which will be introduced in a prime-time special Sept. 25. The “3net Three Dee Kids” Saturday and Sunday morning lineup will premiere in its regular 10 AM weekend time on Oct. 1 and will also include Sony Pictures 3D family films as well as the live-action original series Feeding Time, the 3net exclusive Puppy Bowl and more. Here are descriptions of the new series:
UPDATE: Discovery Chief Says 3D TV Growing “Slower Than Expected” As 2Q Company Results Beat Estimates
UPDATE, 6:50 AM: Not much from the conference call with analysts about the most interesting story at Discovery: the recent changes at its struggling joint venture with Oprah Winfrey, OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network. Oprah recently named herself CEO and Chief Creative Officer. Zaslav says that “she is in place as CEO already,” and “we now have her creative team in place.” That means Discovery COO Peter Ligouri — named OWN’s interim CEO in May when the partners dumped Christina Norman — can “spend more time with us.”
CBS and Discovery’s new Velocity Network announced today they have pacted to broadcast 20 hours of the Epic Poker League, a new pro league launching next month in Las Vegas. CBS will air seven hours of original programming, while Velocity will air 13 hours as well as re-air CBS’ episodes. …
Unscripted executive Sean Boyle has left VH1, where he has served as an executive producer on such series as Saddle Ranch, The X Life, Dad Camp, The Price of Beauty and, most recently, Mob Wives. Word is that he is headed to Discovery Channel.