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Veteran TV executive Henry Schleiff has been tapped as president and GM of Investigation Discovery, a fledgling channel in the Discovery Communications fold.
In the newly created post, Schleiff will spearhead the development, production, scheduling, research, marketing, communications and online efforts for ID, with direct responsibility for driving the network’s revenue, ratings and brand. He will take up his new job Aug. 1, reporting to Clark Bunting, president and GM of Discovery Emerging Networks.
The move comes six weeks after Schleiff resigned as president and CEO of Crown Media Holdings, owner of the Hallmark Channel.
Schleiff said he envisioned the new channel as “Justice Central,” the brand of choice for investigations similar to the way Comedy Central has become a go-to destination for laughs.
“I’ve only been here five minutes, so to speak, but I think this is one of the great genres of television,” he said. “Our focus will be on telling compelling stories in the first person and going beyond the justice system itself to answer the question ‘what’s the real story?’ about so many parts of our experience.”
That means not just, say, injustices in our legal system but what really happened to the Air France plane that crashed in the Atlantic or to David Carradine in Thailand, he added.
Since its January 2008 launch, ID has had 16 consecutive months of year-over-year primetime household gains and is the fastest-growing cable network among its target demographic of women 25-54. In a recent Nielsen Media Research study, ID ranked among the top five ad-supported cable networks for length-of-tune-in for primetime and total day.
Since startup, ID has debuted 16 original series, including “The Shift,” “Wicked Attraction” and the upcoming “On the Case With Paula Zahn,” with seven of the 10 series launched in its first year returning for new seasons.
Schleiff, who also championed original programming at Hallmark and before that at Court TV (now TruTV), said almost everything would be original at ID, with little bought-in programming. (He envisions only a couple of new hires, if that, in the programming department.)
Although declining to discuss what type of programming budget he would have available — “It’s never enough,” he said — Schleiff suggested that the Discovery family’s considerable resources and cross-promotional opportunities would help buoy the actual amount. Schleiff plans to commute from offices in New York to Discovery headquarters in Silver Spring, Md.
“Hiring someone of Henry’s experience and stature in the industry underscores the confidence we have in the potential and growth of Investigation Discovery,” said David Zaslav, president and CEO of Discovery Communications.
“I believe Clark and his team have found a void in the marketplace and are filling it at ID with the kind of programming that viewers clearly demand,” Schleiff said.
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