Getting serious about Hollywood, Discovery taps Peter Liguori as chief operating officer

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One of the television industry’s most eligible executives is off the market. Industry insiders have been interested to see where Peter Liguori, a former top Fox programming executive, would land after leaving News Corp. earlier this year in a management shakeup. Most recently, Liguori served as a consultant to Comcast Corp. as the Philadelphia-based cable television giant prepared to take control of NBC Universal.

Some figured that Liguori, who established himself at News Corp. by helping build the FX cable channel into a force with such provocative programs as “The Shield” and “Nip/Tuck,” might wind up in a prominent position helping Comcast bolster NBC’s television division.

Instead, Discovery Communications Inc. plans to announce today that it has hired Liguori as its chief operating officer. He will start his new gig as second in command at the Silver Spring, Md.-based company on Jan. 19.

The move signals Discovery’s desire to become a bigger player in Hollywood, since Liguori has spent more than a decade establishing relationships with top writers, producers and agents in the entertainment industry.


In an interview, Discovery Chief Executive David Zaslav said he reached out to Liguori, 49, about six weeks ago in an effort to lure him to Discovery.

“I’ve been wondering who had the right mix of skills and energy to really accelerate our growth,” Zaslav said. “It’s been six weeks of hard press but Peter is excited too. I think this will be just the perfect match.”

Zaslav is betting on Liguori and his marketing savvy to help raise the profile of Discovery’s channels and partnerships. Liguori, who spent nearly nine years at HBO and was credited at Fox for his management skills, will be Discovery’s point person to work with Oprah Winfrey and Christina Norman, the chief executive of OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network. OWN, a joint venture between Discovery and Winfrey, is scheduled to launch in January 2011 on what is now the Discovery Health Channel.

Liguori will oversee Discovery’s recently announced joint venture with Hasbro Inc. to relaunch a channel aimed at children. He also will be responsible for Discovery’s marketing, corporate communications, business affairs, media technology, production and operation departments. He will chair Discovery’s Content Committee, which includes general managers from its various channels, including Discovery, TLC and Animal Planet.

“It was very important for me to feel comfortable with the people whom I was going to work with,” Liguori said in an interview. “Discovery has high-quality people with high-quality businesses and programming, and there is high upside. I haven’t even started yet, and I am already pushing myself to figure out ways to be great.”

-- Meg James