Kevin Bennett has been promoted to general manager, Investigation Discovery and Military Channel, and EVP programming, ID, Military Channel and Destination America. He will continue to report to Henry Schleiff, Group President ID, Military Channel and Destination America. From the announcement:
At Discovery Communications’ upfront today, the company’s Discovery Channel, TLC, Animal Planet and Investigation Discovery presented their slates of new and returning series. (See Discovery/Harpo-owned OWN’s announcement here). Discovery Channel, which had its highest-rated January ever in total viewers and adults 25-54, is putting an emphasis on live events with specials Fast N’ Live and the Grand Canyon tightrope walk Wallenda Live as well as scripted TV with its first scripted project, miniseries Klondike. The network’s unscripted slate features 10 new series, including The Huntsmen, Rock Raiders, two Naked shows, Hidden Kingdom and Survival.
TLC’s slate features 52 new and returning series, including the return of pop culture hit Here Comes Honey Boo Boo and Breaking Amish and its spinoff. Animal Planet returns 20 series and new ones like Eel Of Fortune, about hunting prized eels off the New England coast. Its best-performing series ever, River Monsters, returns April 7. Investigation Discovery, meanwhile, is offering up its second original newsmagazine Deadline: Crime With Tamron Hall and the Jerry Springer-hosted Tabloid.
Here are details for all the Discovery networks:
(New York, NY) – Scandalous headlines. Surreal true-life stories. Who doesn’t scan the supermarket tabloids in the checkout line? Investigation Discovery (ID) introduces TABLOID, a new weekly series guaranteed to satisfy inquiring minds. Hosted by the Emmy Award-winning king of tabloid television, Jerry Springer, TABLOID peels back the curtain to probe the most bizarre larger-than-life stories you can’t possibly imagine. With an initial run of ten, one-hour episodes co-produced by Radley Studios and Espiritus Productions, TABLOID will premiere on ID in 1Q 2014.
UPDATE, 7:05 AM: CEO David Zaslav refused to put any daylight between himself and Oprah Winfrey as analysts in a conference call this morning asked for more insight into the prospects for their struggling OWN joint venture. Now that Winfrey is running the operation, it has “a team she has confidence in, and I have confidence in,” he said. He sidestepped a question about whether Discovery has the right to terminate its agreement with Winfrey, or to re-purpose the channel — for example by moving it to the Web. “We’re up for about a year,” he says. “If we grow a meaningful audience, and we think we will, this will be a significant asset.” Zaslav says that the channel “learned a great deal about its audience” last year and is “off to a nice start in 2012″ with returning shows including Our America With Lisa Ling and Sweetie Pie. Also, “Oprah will be featured in additional formats. … We’re excited to grow this network in 2012.” The company says that, as a matter of policy, it doesn’t break out profits for individual channels.
Ray Richmond is contributing to Deadline’s coverage of TCA.
Oscar-nominated feature filmmaker Werner Herzog (whose projects have included the acclaimed documentaries Grizzly Man and Into The Abyss) has a new series of films coming to cable’s Investigation Discovery under the title On Death Row. Premiering later this year, the limited series has Herzog interviewing death row inmates in Florida and Texas to “look into the dark recesses of the human soul,” as Herzog told Deadline in an exclusive interview prior to a TCA session this afternoon. Interestingly, the series evolved from what began as a single film with Into The Abyss. On Death Row is a spare, bleak story literally devoid of bells and whistles — just Herzog’s disembodied narration with unadorned images from Herzog’s one-on-one interviews with four death row killers. And while some will find it odd that a filmmaker of Herzog’s renown could seamlessly move between film and nonfiction TV, he and producer Erik Nelson have been doing so for several years. “It’s sort of a puzzling question that I hear all the time,” he says. “People ask, ‘How can I make both feature films and documentaries? Isn’t that some sort of contradiction?’ But that makes nobody nervous if, say, I’m a writer, if I am Shakespeare writing stage plays and also poetry. That doesn’t make anyone nervous.”
Discovery CFO Bradley Singer couldn’t have been surprised to be asked at Citigroup’s Global Media, Entertainment and Telecommunications Conference about what’s up with OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network. Bankers and investors are still waiting to see significant progress at Discovery’s struggling, high-profile joint venture with the talk show host and entrepreneur. But his answer was also familiar: Wait. Now that Oprah’s running the operation “we feel real good about the direction the network is headed in. It’s just building block after building block.” The channel’s financial prospects, he added, depend on how well it can build its viewing audience.
Most of the other questions were a lot easier considering that Discovery has one of the highest profit margins in cable programming. Singer says the ad market continues to improve. “We have not been impacted yet by anything you might read” about weakness in the overall economy. Meanwhile channels that have taken off over the last year, led by ID: Investigation Discovery, have “that much room to grow in terms of advertising.” He’s also optimistic about The Hub, the joint venture with Hasbro. “Long term, that could be
Kevin Bennett has been named SVP Programming and Research, ID, Military Channel and Planet Green. It marks Bennett’s return to ID, aka Investigation Discovery, which he helped launch four years ago. His hire is part of a new management structure in which Bennett will lead a newly centralized programming, scheduling and research division across the three brands and will oversee development for ID.
Tom Huffman, formerly of Shed Media, has joined VH1 as VP Original Programming. He will step into to the network executive producer role for VH1′s Basketball Wives, which he developed and originally pitched to VH1 in 2009 when he was at Shed.
With Coast Guard Alaska debuting November 9, the Weather Channel has greenlighted another “guard” reality series, Lifeguard! Premiering in February, the 13-epiosde half-hour docudrama, produced by LMNO Prods, follows the men and women who guard the 150 miles of California coastline.
The joint-venture channels — OWN with Oprah Winfrey, and The Hub with Hasbro — aren’t included. What’s more, “there is not any specific content that Netflix is entitled to,” Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav told investors this morning at Goldman Sachs’ Communacopia Conference. He wouldn’t talk about the economics of the deal but says that they will “become apparent” the next time the company reports its quarterly earnings. He adds that while “we don’t know what’s going to happen with Netflix” — which is grappling with consumer fury after it raised prices 60% for those who want to stream video and rent DVDs –”right now we think that will not create an issue for us.” Here’s the release about Discovery’s new Netflix agreement:
Los Gatos, Calif. and Silver Spring, Md. — Netflix, Inc. and Discovery Communications today announced a two-year non-exclusive licensing agreement that allows Netflix members to instantly watch prior-season series and specials, including an expanded selection of additional seasons of popular series from Discovery, TLC and Animal Planet, as well as Investigation Discovery, Science and Military Channel. Among the highlights are Discovery Channel’s Man vs. Wild, TLC’s Say Yes to the Dress, and Animal Planet’s River Monsters and other titles from Discovery’s rich program library.
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.”