TCA: Discovery Channel Boss Rich Ross Talks Programming Plans, Ratings Erosion

"I think being more inclusive to women and younger men is a way for us to build back the audience," he said from the TCA stage
Rich Ross

Seventy-two hours in, the newly installed president of Discovery Channel, Rich Ross, began fielding questions from the press.

“The most important thing that this network should stand for is authenticity,” the Disney Channel veteran said from stage, kicking off his turn at the Television Critics Association’s semiannual press tour Thursday. The comment was the first of several that addressed where he’d like to take the brand, which, like many of its cable competitors, has seen its ratings erode of late.

"One of the realities of our world and the Discovery Channel that I’ve come into is that it’s more narrowly niche than I think it ever needs to be or should be," he acknowledged, adding of his plan to broaden out the network: "I think being more inclusive to women and younger men is a way for us to build back the audience ... and and to being the No. 1 TV brand for the whole family."

Key to that process: a continued focus on working closely with his international partners, as he did during his tenure at Disney and, more recently, at Shine America, and an aggressive push for more scripted, which the newly hired John Goldwyn will spearhead. Ross suggested that he'd love to have two scripted series on the schedule later this year, with the focus of at least one likely on history.

"It’s very hard to do history in the unscripted series arena, but it’s an incredible place to do scripted drama," he noted, staying mum on specifics except to add: "We’re already talking to producers about properties and I think we’re very close to buying one."

As for the crowded scripted landscape, that doesn’t scare him. “I know that there are over 45 networks now doing scripted, but a lot of the networks no one watches a lot," he said, noting with confidence: "This is a top 10 network, a huge network for men, and I think we have a huge opportunity."

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