Howard T. Owens Tapped as President of National Geographic Channels

2:04 PM PST 11/04/2011 by Marisa Guthrie
Howard T. Owens

CEO David Lyle shakes up his executive team, bringing in the founding partner of Reveille as well as former HBO marketing chief Courteney Monroe as CMO.

Four months after taking over as CEO of National Geographic Channels US, David Lyle has made sweeping changes in the top ranks of the company. Reveille LLC founding partner Howard T. Owens has been named president, replacing Steve Schiffman, who had been with the company since 2002. Owens’ appointment is effective immediately. And Courteney Monroe, who left her post at HBO in September, will fill the newly created position of chief marketing officer beginning in January. Owens and Monroe will report to Lyle.

Additionally, Michael Cascio has been upped to executive vp of programming reporting to Owens. And Chris Albert has been upped to senior vp of communications and talent relations.

Marketing executive Kiera Hynninen and communications vp Russell Howard also will exit Nat Geo.

Owens is one of the original employees of Reveille, brought in from William Morris – along with Mark Koops and Chris Grant – when Ben Silverman formed the company in 2002. Owens left Reveille last June. He’s in the process of relocating to Washington, D.C. and will be in the office next week, said Lyle. Monroe already lives in Washington, care of her husband’s job there. And one of the reasons she cited for leaving HBO, where she spearheaded marketing campaigns for The Sopranos and Game of Thrones, was the wearing commute between her home and her HBO office in New York.

Lyle said his goal with the new hires is to bring a fresh perspective and “greater sense of urgency” to what is already a successful network.

He added that the company will spend whatever it needs to on development to grow the network and his goal is have the majority of the schedule (about 70 percent) in ongoing series and the rest one-off specials.  

He singled out Brain Games as an example of the kind of programming the network will do more of.

"It was about how our rational brain gets tripped up by the sort of mechanism by which we view the outside world," he explained. "Now even as I’m saying that I’m falling asleep with boredom. It was a real-egg head concept. And yet by using artists, by using magicians, by using contemporary storytelling and really enhanced interactivity, we were able to make this a fascinating, interactive TV experience where we kind of fooled people into realizing that their brains didn’t always tell them the truth.

"Had we approached that subject three or four years ago," he continued. "It would have been a standard documentary with heavy narration from the voice of God. And so I think we need to embrace all sorts of methods for telling stories that are in the National Geographic wheelhouse."

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