Executives Shuffled as Government Green Lights Discovery/Scripps Deal

Discovery Buys Scripps

SILVER SPRING, Md. – As finalization of the Discovery Communications/Scripps Networks merger nears, the U.S. Department of Justice gave its green light for the acquisition last week, while Discovery announced major changes in leadership. 

Discovery said in a statement that the DOJ concluded its examination of the deal and cleared the way for the merger to occur. The announcement of an $11.9 billion cash-and-stock deal for Scripps initially was announced last summer. The combined entity will control several major cable networks, including Discovery Channel, Food Network, Travel Channel, and TLC. 

Analysts say the combined company will have more leverage in negotiations with distributors, both legacy players like cable companies, and new over-the-top (OTT) entrants, and offer larger advertising packages running across multiple channels with similar non-fiction content.

Discovery has enjoyed favorable financial news since it announced its intentions to buy Scripps. Last week, it reported its full-year and fourth-quarter earnings results. Revenues rose 11 percent for the quarter to $1.86 billion. 

Also last week, Discovery shared major changes in its executive ranks ahead of the merger.

David Zaslav, president and CEO of Discovery, said each division of the new company will have “a best-in-class leader focused on quickly integrating the combined teams to create new ways for advertisers and distributors to reach highly targeted audiences at scale; capturing operating efficiencies across both companies; and driving innovation to continue telling great stories and nourishing our passionate, loyal superfans around the world across every consumer screen, service and platform.”

Among the changes:

  • TLC President Nancy Daniels will be chief brand officer, overseeing Discovery Channel, Discovery’s flagship cable network, and the Science Channel.
  • Kathleen Finch, formerly chief programming, content and brand officer for the six Scripps networks, will be chief lifestyle brands officer of the combined company, overseeing 12 networks.
  • Jon Steinlauf, the former president of national ad sales and marketing for Scripps Networks, will oversee ad sales for the combined company, as chief U.S. advertising sales officer. 
  • Ben Price, Discovery’s president of U.S. ad sales, will report to Steinlauf, as will Leigh Anne Brodsky, executive vice president of Discovery Global Enterprises.
  • Jean-Briac Perrette will continue as president and CEO of Discovery Networks International.
  • Susanna Dinnage will continue as global president of the Animal Planet network in the U.S., and the Animal Planet brand worldwide.
  • Howard Lee, former executive vice president of development and production for TLC and general manager of Discovery Life, will serve as president and general manager of both networks.

Several other Discovery executives will remain in their current roles. Henry Schleiff will still head up Investigation Discovery, Destination America, and American Heroes Channel, while Erik Logan continues as president of OWN.