Programming

Ted Koppel, Discovery End Partnership Early

Discovery to focus on non-news content with a longer shelf life. 11/25/2008 06:21:00 AM Eastern

Ted Koppel and Discovery Communications have decided to end their partnership six months early. Discovery says the decision to dissolve the agreement was mutual and amicable.

Koppel joined the company in January 2006 as managing editor with a three year deal, bringing with him his executive producer, Tom Bettag, and eight staffers from Nightline.

Since he joined the company, David Zaslav has come on board as CEO, and John Ford has been named president and GM of its flagship Discovery Channel.

"There has been significant change in senior management at Discovery,” Koppel said announcing the decision. “Producing our kind of news-related programs is an expensive proposition. It has long been clear that neither of us is interested in an extension of the current contract. Discovery and I worked on terminating the contract a few months early under terms that both sides found acceptable. We leave with gratitude for the professional opportunities we've been given and for the generosity with which we've been treated."

Koppel produced a number of critically acclaimed documentaries for the channel, dubbed Koppel on Discovery, examining issues such as cancer (through Koppel's friend Leroy Sievers), and multi-hour specials on China and Iran.

Discovery says that Koppel’s programs, while valuable and informative, were not where the brand was heading. Rather, the network plans to focus on “long-running series and specials in the network's core nonfiction genres and emphasizes non-news content that has a longer shelf life and appeals to audiences around the world.”

“We want timeless programming that has shelf life, and also programming that can go global,” John Ford, president and GM of Discovery Channel told B&C. “Given that, it is not as great a fit as one might have thought before. Anything Ted Koppel does is topical, but it is from an American journalist’s point of view. The core of discovery is continuing along that timeless and global route. There is just less and less of an interest in things that have a short shelf life.”

Koppel is a senior analyst for NPR. He also will continue to appear on BBC World News America, where he became a contributing analyst during BBC America's election coverage.

"We have an ongoing relationship/agreement with Ted and that has been and will continue to be really good for the program," said Rome Hartman, World News America executive producer. "I'd love to see that relationship strengthened and deepened."

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