Changes in the big offices
New execs are heading for Discovery, VH1 and Trio
By Allison Romano -- Broadcasting & Cable, 5/19/2002 8:00:00 PM
Discovery Communications filled a top U.S. executive position last week, while VH1 secured a programming whiz to help revive its fortunes.
Discovery went to Hollywood for its next president of its U.S. networks. Broadcast veteran Billy Campbell, whose credits include ER and Everybody Loves Raymond, will now run 11 Discovery nets. Campbell, most recently president of Miramax Television, succeeds Johnathan Rodgers, who resigned in March.
Campbell recently executive-produced Miramax's Project Greenlight documentary series with Chris Moore and actors Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. He also has served as EVP at CBS Entertainment and as SVP, drama development, for Warner Bros. Television, where he developed ER.
At Discovery, Campbell will oversee channels like Animal Planet and Discovery Channel, dominated by non-scripted programming. He says it won't be a difficult transition. "In fiction versus nonfiction, it all comes back to great storytelling. It doesn't depend on having huge budgets," he said, adding Discovery has done a "good job eliminating waste." Discovery committed $370 million for new programs this year, but per show, Campbell is used to spending more.
He said he'd like to develop more brand-defining signature series for Discovery's nets, like Trading Spaces on TLC. Under a multi-year deal, he'll relocate from Los Angeles to Discovery's Bethesda, Md., headquarters and oversee ad sales, affiliate sales, marketing, research and communication.
VH1 landed a proven programmer in MTV's Brian Graden, who adds VH1 to his MTV and MTV2 programming duties . He emerged as the likely candidate after MTV Music Networks President Judy McGrath took over the music net two months ago.
Graden will need to craft smart new shows to replace aging hits like Behind the Music. Last year, VH1's prime time Nielsen ratings have hovered at 0.2 to 0.3, and several new series, like Late World With Zach, have failed to draw an audience.
He may look to abandon VH1's theme-night scheduling in favor of multiple plays of new shows. "It's less about building nights, more about creating great shows," he said.
VH1's newly appointed EVP/GM Christina Norman heads daily operations, marketing and promotions. EVP of Programming Fred Graver is staying on as executive producer.
Former VH1 exec Lauren Zalaznick joins Universal Television's Trio diginet to be president of the fledgling cable network.
Zalaznick is best-known for helping develop high-profile events Divas Live! and VH1 Fashion while VH1's SVP of original programming and development. She will oversee programming and marketing at Trio and serve as EVP of Universal Television's emerging-networks unit.
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