James Blue to Oversee Smithsonian Channel

James F. Blue III
Courtesy of ViacomCBS

The Smithsonian Channel is getting a new leader.

PBS NewsHour producer James F. Blue III has been tapped to serve as senior vp and head of the ViacomCBS- and Smithsonian Institution-backed niche cable network. Blue replaces Tom Hayden, who founded the platform in 2006 and was pushed out in April amid a corporate restructuring at ViacomCBS.

In addition to working with the Smithsonian Institution, Blue will oversee all factual unscripted content for Chris McCarthy's sprawling MTV Entertainment Group. He will report to both McCarthy, who serves as president of the portfolio that oversees MTV, VH1, Paramount Network, Comedy Central and numerous other brands, as well as chief creative officer Nina L. Diaz.

"MTV Entertainment has an extraordinarily talented team, and I am thrilled to be joining them,” said Blue. “I look forward to leveraging my expertise and experience to help shape and implement MTV Entertainment’s strategic vision for Smithsonian and other news, factual and non-fiction content across, and even beyond, the Group’s platforms.”

Blue arrives eight months after Ryan was dismissed and Smithsonian Channel was folded into McCarthy's larger entertainment portfolio as part of parent company ViacomCBS' massive reorganization that shifted away from siloed brands. McCarthy, who reports directly to ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish, oversees a portfolio that also includes niche cable networks Logo, CMT and TV Land.

“Smithsonian is a world-class brand rich with treasures from our shared American experience,” said McCarthy. “James is an exceptionally talented executive and incredible storyteller who will bring those iconic treasures and experiences to life across all of our platforms.”

Blue most recently was the senior producer of PBS NewsHour. The new gig brings him back into the ViacomCBS fold after he previously exec produced BET's political coverage of the 2012 election. He's also worked as a producer for Discovery and spent 14 years at ABC News and NNBC News.