(Silver Spring, MD) Discovery Communications today announced the appointment of former Shine America CEO and Disney executive Rich Ross to the position of President, the Discovery Channel. Ross will join Discovery Communications in January 2015, and will be based at the company’s LA office. Ross will oversee creative and brand strategy, development, production, marketing and all day-to-day operations for the network. He will report to David Zaslav, President and CEO of Discovery Communications.
“Rich is one of the most creative storytellers, ratings drivers, brand builders and TV executives in the industry today,” said Zaslav. “On top of being just a great guy, Rich also is mission driven, with a commitment to quality, blue-chip programming and is a terrific fit with Discovery. I am confident that with his experience, relationships and creative leadership, Rich can lead Discovery to its next great chapter in innovative, groundbreaking television.”
Today’s announcement comes as the Discovery Channel is having a strong fourth quarter to date, with total viewers up 17% with hit series FAST N’ LOUD, GOLD RUSH and ALASKA: THE LAST FRONTIER all up year-over-year in primetime and male demos.
“I am so excited to join David and the great team at Discovery,” said Ross. “This network is the gold standard of programmers and to be able to add to its depth of great content with new stories and new characters is simply thrilling.”
Ross joins Discovery from Shine America, where in his role as CEO since 2013, he has driven the ongoing commercial strategy of Shine Group’s US operations. He has overseen all aspects of Shine America’s production, distribution and marketing of original programming across broadcast, cable and digital platforms, including such programs as MasterChef and MasterChef Junior (FOX), The Biggest Loser (NBC), The Face (Oxygen), Restaurant Startup (CNBC), Fake-Off (TruTV) and Peabody Award-winning The Bridge (FX), Gracepoint (FOX) and the upcoming drama Utopia (HBO).
Prior to joining Shine America, Ross had a successful career at The Walt Disney Company from 1996 to 2012, most recently in the role as Chairman of The Walt Disney Studios from 2009-2012, where he oversaw worldwide production, distribution and marketing for the company’s range of live-action and feature-animated film labels, including Walt Disney, Disney-Pixar and Marvel, and worked with leading filmmakers and focused on branded content. Previously, Ross served as president of Disney Channels Worldwide from 2004-2009, where he managed the unprecedented growth and success of the company’s global television and radio portfolio for kids, including six brands and more than 70 kids TV channels around the world. His focus was on creating top-quality content for global consumption by kids and families on multiple platforms; on expanding the business around the world; and strengthening franchise opportunities for other divisions at The Walt Disney Company. Under Ross’s leadership, Disney Channel delivered basic cable TV’s top two scripted telecasts of all time in Total Viewers and cable TV’s top two telecasts ever among Kids 6-11 and Tweens (2007’s High School Musical 2″ and 2009’s “Wizards of Waverly Place The Movie” — the latter was finally unseated in 2014). A Disney Channel Original Movie was basic cable TV’s #1 movie with Kids 6-11 and/or Tweens 9-14 from 2002-09. In addition, Ross launched a string of hit series that helped define a generation for kids and families including “Lizzie McGuire,” “Even Stevens,” “That’s So Raven,” “Hannah Montana,” “The Suite Life of Zack & Cody,” “Wizards of Waverly Place,” “The Proud Family” and “Phineas and Ferb.” Prior to his global role as president, Ross was Disney Channel president, entertainment from 2002-2004, General Manager and Executive Vice President, programming and production from 1999-2002, and Senior Vice President, programming and production, from 1996-1999.
Prior to his tenure at Disney, Ross was Senior Vice President, Development and Production for FX Networks from 1993-1996, where he was a member of the executive team that launched the cable network. Ross began his career at Nickelodeon, rising to the role of VP of Program Enterprises. He holds a JD from Fordham University and a bachelor of arts from the University of Pennsylvania. Among his industry and philanthropic affiliations, Ross serves on the Board of Trustees for AFI and on the Board of Directors of the Fulfillment Fund.
Marjorie Kaplan, who has served as interim President for the Discovery Channel, will continue in that capacity until Ross’s arrival in January 2015. She will continue to serve as Group President of TLC and Animal Planet, and will add Velocity to the portfolio of networks under her leadership.
Zaslav continued: “A special thanks to Marjorie Kaplan. She is one of our most talented and dedicated leaders. Marjorie stepped in over the past 60 days without missing a beat to provide tremendous leadership, continuity and creative energy for the Discovery Channel during an important transition period. All those who have worked with Marjorie know how collaborative, creative and passionate she is about every project she touches, and I am so appreciative of her jumping in during this interim period and to now have her back full time providing steadiness and creative leadership to TLC, Animal Planet and her entire portfolio.”
About Discovery Communications
Discovery Communications (Nasdaq: DISCA, DISCB, DISCK) is the world’s leading independent programmer reaching 2.7 billion cumulative subscribers in more than 220 countries and territories. Discovery is dedicated to satisfying curiosity, engaging and entertaining viewers with high-quality content on worldwide television networks, led by Discovery Channel, TLC, Animal Planet, Investigation Discovery and Science, as well as U.S. joint venture network OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network. Discovery also controls Eurosport International, a premier sports entertainment group, including six pay-TV network brands across Europe and Asia. Discovery also is a leading provider of educational products and services to schools, including an award-winning series of K-12 digital textbooks, and a digital leader with a diversified online portfolio, including Discovery Digital Networks. For more information, please visit www.discoverycommunications.com.