National Geographic Channel Overhauls Management

7:12 AM PST 04/15/2014 by Paul Bond , Kimberly Nordyke
AP Images
David Lyle, left, and David Hill

UPDATED: David Lyle is out as CEO and 21st Century Fox senior executive vp David Hill will become chairman.

National Geographic Channels U.S. will undergo a complete management makeover that includes a new CEO and the installation of 21st Century Fox senior executive vp David Hill as board chairman.

David Lyle is stepping down as CEO of Nat Geo, a joint venture of Fox Cable Networks and National Geographic. Courteney Monroe, who has served as chief marketing officer for National Geographic Channels’ domestic networks since joining the company in January 2012, has been promoted to CEO effective May 1.

The moves come one day after Howard Owens said he would step down in June as president after three years on the job.

“Courteney is a truly remarkable executive, with a proven track record of energizing programming brands — both here at National Geographic Channels and during her time at HBO,” said Gary E. Knell, president and CEO of the National Geographic Society, and Peter Rice, chairman and CEO of Fox Networks Group, in a joint statement. “She is also a proven leader, who has a clear vision of the television landscape, and we are very lucky to have her overseeing our domestic channels.”

Before joining National Geographic Channels, she was executive vp consumer marketing and digital platforms at HBO. In her new role, she will report to the board of directors of the National Geographic Channels.

“During my tenure as CMO at the National Geographic Channels, I have seen the power of this brand, and am excited by the opportunity to grow these networks, both creatively and commercially, for our partners and our advertisers,” Monroe said. “Being part of the team that laid such a strong foundation over the past few years has given me invaluable insight into what it is going to take to get us to the next level.”

Hill, who currently serves as a member of the National Geographic Channels board of directors, will add the title of chairman, providing counsel to the executive and programming leadership team. Hill will remain a member of the board and also continue to play a leadership role in the production of American Idol.

Hill originally joined Fox Broadcasting in 1993 as the first president of Fox Sports and has since he has served as chairman and CEO of the Fox Broadcasting Company, president of DirecTV’s entertainment division and chairman and COO/executive producer of the National Geographic Channel, all while maintaining his duties at Fox Sports, where he was named Chairman and CEO.

The upheaval presumably returns Hill to a more influential role at Nat Geo, which he ran for six months in 2011 until Lyle was made CEO, at which time he relinquished oversight of the partnership but remained a board member. Hill is a former CEO of Fox Sports and he has also been in charge of American Idol and The X Factor for Fox.

Said Knell and Rice in their joint statement: “Over the past several decades David Hill has continually demonstrated his unique gift for live-action and scripted storytelling. His work for Fox Sports alone would fill volumes, and he will continue to be an unparalleled asset to the board, now at an elevated level, as well as an invaluable advisor to our channels team. We could not be more delighted to have his creative counsel.”

Lyle spent three years as CEO at the company and is a Fox veteran. He created the Fox Reality Channel and Fox Look, which produced and licensed unscripted formats for sale around the world. He previously was president of entertainment at FremantleMedia, where he was a key leader of the team that launched and guided American Idol through its first three seasons.

“David Lyle led National Geographic Channels U.S. through a period of tremendous commercial and creative growth, including the highest-rated period in the channel’s history,” Rice and Knell said in their joint statement. “We will be forever grateful to David for his efforts and we join the entire National Geographic family in wishing him the best in his future endeavors.”

Added Lyle: “I am very happy with the success that our teams in D.C. and in the new offices in L.A. and N.Y. had in bringing a fresh era of entertainment to the traditional authenticity of National Geographic. Both Nat Geo Wild and National Geographic Channel have introduced great franchise series that stand them in good stead for the future.”

The management overhaul comes during a prosperous time for Nat Geo, with several series boasting relatively strong ratings and record-setting audiences for TV movies Killing Lincoln and Killing Kennedy, based on books co-written by Fox News Channel ratings champion, Bill O'Reilly.

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