Discovery Shake-Up: Rich Ross Out, Scripps' Kathleen Finch Inherits Huge Portfolio

Rich Ross_Kathleen Finch_Split - Getty - H 2018
Getty Images; Courtesy of Discovery

The new Discovery Communications is starting to take shape, and it is leaning heavily on the leadership of soon-to-be-acquired Scripps Networks. Topper Kathleen Finch adds the network portfolio to her already-robust roster of HGTV, Food Network and more. 

In the move, current Discovery channels group topper Rich Ross is exiting the company. A number of current Scripps Networks executives are also left out in the cold, though some are participating in the integration process.

“Today’s announcement is another major milestone in combining these two fantastic companies into a new kind of media company with the most trusted portfolio of real life entertainment brands in the world,” Discovery CEO and president David Zaslav said Thursday in a statement. “Upon closing, each division 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.”

It's been about nine months since Discovery put in its nearly $12 billion bid to buy Scripps, and the joining of the two companies appears to be taking an effect on nearly every network. Finch, chief programmer at Scripps, will become chief lifestyle brands officer for the combined company. Her management purview includes the massive roster of HGTV, Food Network, TLC, ID, Travel Channel, DIY Network, Cooking Channel, Discovery Life, American Heroes Channel, Destination America, Great American Country and Lifestyle Digital Studios. 

Finch has been with the Knoxville-based Scripps since 1999 and has run all programming since 2015. While focused on the home brands, she launched massive hits such as Fixer Upper and The Property Brothers.

As for other prominent Discovery execs, TLC topper Nancy Daniels will assume the role of chief brand officer, Discovery and Factual. Howard Lee, previously development and production executive vp at the network, rises to president and GM of TLC and Discovery Life. (Henry Schleiff will stay in his role at ID, as will OWN's Erik Logan and Animal Planet's Susanna Dinnage.)

Ross, who had been at Shine America (now Endemol Shine North America) and Disney before that, joined Discovery in 2015.

See the full rundown of new senior leadership, as provided by Discovery, below.

  • Gunnar Wiedenfels, currently serving as Discovery’s Chief Financial Officer, will become CFO of the combined company.
  • Jean-Briac Perrette, currently serving as President and CEO of Discovery Networks International, will continue in that role driving the combined company’s global expansion.
  • Bruce Campbell, who is currently Chief Development, Distribution and Legal Officer of Discovery, will continue in that role for the combined company. Leading the combined company’s linear, non-linear and mobile distribution efforts in the U.S. and Canada will be Eric Phillips, President, Affiliate Distribution, reporting to Campbell. Discovery’s General Counsel, Savalle Sims, will retain that role for the combined company, also reporting to Campbell.
  • Adria Alpert Romm, currently serving as Chief Human Resources and Global Diversity Officer for Discovery, will continue in that role for the combined company.
  • Jon Steinlauf, currently President of National Ad Sales and Marketing for Scripps Networks, will become Chief U.S. Advertising Sales Officer for the combined company. Steinlauf will lead the combined Ad Sales, Consumer Products and Licensing and revenue-generating operations and drive the combined company’s valuable IP with advertisers and partners across the domestic market. Ben Price, currently President of U.S. Ad Sales for Discovery, and Leigh Anne Brodsky, currently EVP of Discovery Global Enterprises, will report to Steinlauf.
  • David Leavy, currently serving as Discovery’s Chief Corporate Operations and Communications Officer, will continue in that role for the combined company with continued oversight of the company’s global technology operations. Discovery’s John Honeycutt will be the combined company’s Chief Technology Officer with direct management over global technology operations and strategy, continuing to report to Leavy.
  • Kathleen Finch, currently Chief Programming, Content & Brand Officer for all six Scripps Networks brands, will become Chief Lifestyle Brands Officer for the combined company with management oversight of HGTV, Food Network, TLC, ID, Travel Channel, DIY Network, Cooking Channel, Discovery Life, American Heroes Channel, Destination America, Great American Country and Lifestyle Digital Studios in the U.S. Henry Schleiff will continue as Group President for ID, Destination America and American Heroes Channel. Howard Lee, currently Executive Vice President, Development & Production for TLC and General Manager of Discovery Life, will be the new President and General Manager for TLC and Discovery Life, effective immediately. Both Schleiff and Lee will report to Finch upon closing of the transaction.
  • Nancy Daniels, currently President of TLC, will assume the new role of Chief Brand Officer, Discovery & Factual, effective immediately. Daniels will lead all aspects of Discovery Channel and the Science Channel brands. Rich Ross, currently Group President of Discovery Channel and Science Channel, will be leaving the company.
  • Susanna Dinnage, currently serving as Global President of the Animal Planet network in the U.S. and Animal Planet brand worldwide, will continue in that role.
  • Erik Logan, currently serving as President of OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network, will continue in that role and report to the OWN Venture Board of Directors.
  • Karen Leever, currently serving as EVP and GM, Digital Media U.S., and Mike Lang, currently serving as President, Discovery Networks International Digital & CEO TEN/MotorTrend, will continue in those roles for the new company reporting to Zaslav.