Fates Roundup, Tuesday, April 15

Paul Lee inks multi-year deal with ABC, Nat Geo shakes things up and more
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Below is a compilation of the latest executive moves in the industry.

National Geographic Channels U.S. has shaken up its executive team. On April 14, the company announced that Howard Owens was exiting as president in June. Owens joined Nat Geo in 2011 and helped launch series including Brain Games and Wicked Tuna as well as scripted events Killing Lincoln and Killing Kennedy. The announcement of Owens’ departure was followed on April 15 by the news that National Geographic Channels CEO David Lyle was resigning. Current Chief Marketing Officer Courteney Monroe will succeed Lyle as CEO. Monroe joined National Geographic Channels in January 2012. Also among the shuffle was the appointment of 21st Century Fox exec David Hill as chairman. Hill is a member of the National Geographic Channels board of directors.

Paul Lee (pictured above) has re-upped with ABC, the company announced on April 15. Lee inked a multi-year contract to stay on as president of ABC Entertainment Group. As president, oversees the net’s entertainment operations, ABC Studios and entertainment programming for Disney syndication and ABC daytime. The deal comes less than a month after ABC News head Ben Sherwood was tapped to succeed retiring Anne Sweeney as co-chairman, Disney Media Networks and president, Disney/ABC Television Group. Senior VP of ABC News James Goldston will replace Sherwood as news division topper.

Michael Strahan will join Good Morning America as a correspondent, it was confirmed on April 15. Strahan, who will continue to serve as cohost of Live With Kelly and Michael, will work part time for the morning news program. The former NFL defensive also works for Fox during the NFL season. His appointment comes after recent personnel changes at GMA with the departures of Sam Champion and Josh Elliott and the additions of Amy Robach and Tony Reali.

Pete Marquardt has been tapped as general manager of WGBA-WACY Green Bay. Marquardt will start at the Journal Broadcast Group’ NBC-MyNetworkTV duo on April 28, reporting to Debbie Turner, executive VP of television. Most recently, Marquardt had been VP and general manager of WJFW  Wausau-Rhinelander.

Mary Jeanne Cavanagh has been named executive VP of advertising sales at BabyFirst, the network announced on April 15. Cavanagh, who was named a Wonder Woman by Multichannel News in 2010,  most recently helmed ad sales for UP TV, ASPiRE and Sportsman Channel.

Brad Bessey will helm both Entertainment Tonight and The Insider, it was announced on April 14. Bessey, who has spent more than 15 years working at parent CBS Television Distribution, most recently served as executive producer of The Insider. Monique Chenault will join The Insider as co-executive producer. She heads to CTD from NBCUniversal’s Access Hollywood and BET. CTD also announced that Linda Fuller will stay on at ET as executive producer, while EP DJ Petroro will exit. Longtime ET and The Insider EP Linda Bell Blue is also leaving as it was announced last year that she is heading to ET Studios in June as president.

Rita Mullin has been tapped as general manager of the Science Channel, parent company Discovery Communications announced on April 14. She will start in her new role on June 2 and report to Eileen O’Neill, group president, Discovery Channel, Science Channel and Velocity. Mullin had previously helmed programming and development for sister network OWN, where she helped launch series Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s, Six Little McGhees, Our America With Lisa Ling and Life With La Toya.

Vernon Church has been tapped as COO of TruthCo, the independent consultancy announced on April 14. Church, who joins from his consultancy Cakeworthy Advisors, will oversee operations, long-term goals, finance, HR and infrastructure in his new role.

Michael Phelps will swim out of retirement at the Mesa Grand Prix on April 24, marking the first time the 22-time Olympic medalist has dove in since the 2012 London Games. The meet will air on Universal Sports Network. Olympians Ryan Lochte and Katie Ledecky are also set to compete.

Al Jazeera America has recalibrated its operations, announced Kate O’Brian, AJA president, in a memo to staff. O’Brian said the cutbacks will affect about 60 people, including staff, freelancers, independent contractors and “other project-oriented individuals.” AJA is also shutting the doors to its sports unit as part of the shift away from start up to regular operations.

Belisa Balaban has been upped to executive VP of original programming at Pivot, the network announced on April 11. Balaban, who will report to network president Evan Shapiro, previously oversaw alternative programming for the cabler, which included the bow of Joseph Gordon Levitt’s HitRECord.

The  American Cable Associaiton has promoted three staff members. The elevations include Ross Lieberman to senior VP of government affairs; Robert Shema as executive VP of mebership/finance and chief of staff; and Stacey Leech as senior director of meetings and industry affairs.

James Goldston has been named on April 10 president of ABC News, succeeding Ben Sherwood, who has been tapped to replace Anne Sweeney as copresident of Disney/ABC Television Group. Goldston, who previously served as VP of ABC News, will oversee all editorial and business operations of the news unit.

Brian Robillard has been tapped as VP of content business operations for Cartoon Network Studios, the company announced on April 10. Robillard, who previously served as director of product strategy and development, content distribution at NBCUniversal, will oversee creating strategy, business plans and operating process. He will also be charged with driving the studio’s multi-platform projects, reporting to Rob Sorcher, chief content officer for Cartoon Network.

Matthew Kornberg has been named controller of Genius Brands International, Inc., it was announced on April 10. Kornberg most recently served as an assurance associate at BDO USA. In his role at GBI, he will oversee the company’s financial assets and establish strategic financial policies, procedures, controls and reporting systems. GBI is a multimedia content and brand management company targeting toddlers to tweens.

Charlotte Koh, head of original series development at Hulu, announced her departure on April 9. Her exit came two days after Craig Erwich formally began working as head of content at the company. Koh had served in her development role since 2011 and had shepherded multiple projects, including the recently premiered Deadbeat.

David Madden has inked a new contract to stay on as president of Fox Television Studios, it was announced on April 9. Madden took over as president in 2010, succeeding Emiliano Calemzuk. The terms of the contract were not revealed.

Terrell McSweeny has been confirmed to the Federal Trade Commission, filling the last open seat on the organization. McSweeny replaces former chairman Jon Leibowitz, who left in March.

Kristin Dolan has been named COO of Cablevision Stystems, replacing Tom Rutledge, who resigned in 2011. Dolan, who formerly headed Optimum Services, joins husband James Dolan at the company. James, who serves as CEO, said he would give up the title of president to his bother-in-law Brian Sweeney.

Recording artist Drake will emcee the 2014 ESPY Awards, which is set to air live on ESPN on July 16. The sports awards show will take place at the Nokia Theatre at L.A. LIVE In Los Angeles.

Paramount Television reorganized its executive leadership team, the company announced on April 9. Under division president Amy Powell, the group will oversee financing and developing the unit’s content. The appointees include: Jason Fisher as head of production; David Goldman as head of business affairs; Jennifer Howell as head of comedy development; Stephanie Lowe as head of finance; and Annette Savitch as head of drama development.

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