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Rich Ross exits Discovery Communications in executive shake-up ahead of merger with Scripps

Rich Ross exits Discovery Communications in executive shake-up ahead of merger with Scripps
Rich Ross will be replaced by TLC chief Nancy Daniels at the Discovery Channel. (Alberto E. Rodriguez)

Discovery Communications is shaking up its executive ranks ahead of its merger with Scripps Network Interactive.

The companies announced Thursday that TLC President Nancy Daniels has been elevated to the new role of chief brand officer, putting her in charge of the Discovery Channel, Discovery's flagship cable network, and the Science Channel.

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Daniels will replace the departing Rich Ross, a former chairman of Walt Disney Studios. Ross joined Discovery in 2014 with the intent of bringing more scripted programming to the network. But the combination of Discovery and Scripps, expected to be completed later this year, is aimed at amassing cable networks that offer easy-to-watch, nonscripted content.

Daniels oversaw one of the few ratings success stories in the cable TV industry last year with TLC, which has had success in nonscripted shows that explore unusual people and lifestyles. The channel saw its 2017 ratings grow year-to-year by 12% in the 25-to-54 age group important to advertisers.

Under the reorganization, Kathleen Finch, who headed programming at Scripps, will take over several Discovery networks in the new role of chief lifestyles brand officer. Her portfolio will include HGTV, Food Network, ID, TLC, Travel Channel and DIY Network.

Howard Lee, who has been in charge of development for TLC, has been elevated to succeed Daniels as president of the channel. Henry Schleiff will remain in place as group president for ID, Destination America and American Heroes Channel. Both executives will report to Finch.

ID, which offers true-crime stories around the clock, is the top-rated cable network among women 25 to 54.

Susanna Dinnage will continue as global president of Discovery's Animal Planet. Jean-Briac Perrette will remain president and chief executive of Discovery Networks International. OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network President Erik Logan will continue in his role and report to the OWN Venture board of directors.

Twitter: @SteveBattaglio

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