John Honeycutt, chief media technology officer for cable programming giant Discovery Communications, has built his fast-moving career on launching large multichannel broadcast operations. The latest is the 53,000-square-foot Discovery Television and Technology Center in Sterling, Va., which provides origination of Discovery's 13 U.S. networks as well as BBC America.
Honeycutt set about designing the Discovery facility, launched in August 2005, with the same strategy he used in a previous role at Fox Cable Networks: to “surround yourself with people way smarter than you.”
Two years ago, he was promoted to his current job, adding responsibility for international broadcast centers in Miami, London and Singapore. Overall, Honeycutt oversees a technical infrastructure that delivers content in 35 languages to more than 1.5 billion people across 170 countries worldwide, via 125 distribution feeds.
He thrives on the volume. “I've never worked in a single-channel business,” he says. “I've always been working in multiple-channel, multiple-platform businesses. I don't know what I would do if had one channel to run. I'd probably drive everybody crazy.”
Honeycutt saw his first TV studio in media production classes at his high school in Medford, Mass., and along the way he's worked in every facet of the TV business except sales. Not long after he graduated from Fitchburg State College in 1991, he went to work in the traffic department of Sportscom in Houston, which was later bought by Liberty Media and would eventually become Fox Sports Net.
Honeycutt was recruited to work in production, and in 1995 moved to Los Angeles to work for the Prime Ticket network on the assignment desk of the show Press Box. He spent a year there, but got married and moved back to Texas. Within six months, he was asked to return to Fox Sports Net. There he designed and operated a technical infrastructure for producing on-air promos for all 20 of the regional sports networks, distributing them back to the master control operation in Houston as well as FSN's Rainbow Media partners.
Honeycutt worked his way up to senior VP of broadcast operations for Fox Cable Networks, overseeing technical operations for FX, National Geographic Channel and Speed Channel as well as the Houston sports hub. In 2003, Discovery recruited him back East to be senior VP of television operations—and build the tech center in Virginia from scratch.