LOS ANGELES (AdAge.com) -- Here's one News Corp. vet who won't be joining the newly merged Comcast-NBC Universal anytime soon. Peter Liguori, who served as Fox's co-head of programming until last March, has joined Discovery Communications as its new operating officer, maintaining dual residences in Los Angeles and, eventually, in Discovery's headquarters in Silver Spring, Md., and reporting to CEO David Zaslav.
Mr. Liguori was one of the TV industry's most-sought-after free agents during his nine-month road from Fox to Discovery, with one Hollywood blog even positing that he could end up replacing Viacom's Judy McGrath as CEO of MTV Networks. While that shakeup never came to fruition, Mr. Liguori did serve as a consultant to Comcast during the months leading up to last week's formal announcement of its NBCU merger, an experience he declined to comment on.
Instead, Mr, Liguori will oversee a growing portfolio of assets at Discovery, which includes Discovery Channel, TLC, Animal Planet, Science Channel, HowStuffWorks.com and new cable networks co-programmed with Hasbro and Oprah Winfrey in the next year. His predecessor, Mark Hollinger, was named president-CEO of Discovery Networks International last week.
Ad Age caught up with Mr. Liguori shortly after the news of his new gig came out of Maryland.
Ad Age: So what will a chief operating officer at Discovery do, exactly, at a time when monetization of content is more inextricably tied to its distribution than ever?
Mr. Liguori: I'll be taking a broad perspective on all the brands and networks and opportunities that the company has with them. My main focus will be how to make sure Discovery is maximizing its value for distributors -- making [distribution chief Bill] Goodwyn's job easier, making it easier for cable subscribers and for affiliates. And frankly doing the same thing from an advertising perspective, making sure the programming is on-brand and make sure our sales teams can go out there and do what they do best, which is partner with sponsors and advertisers and achieve their marketing goals.
Ad Age: You were a big champion of online video while at Fox. What are your thoughts on online authentication of cable content, TV Everywhere and Discovery's role in those initiatives?
Mr. Liguori: I'm on the same page as David [Zaslav] about this -- audiences are aware that someone needs to pay for programming, it's not just free to be had, and they're used to it. The key is maximizing the value of this content across all platforms from an audience perspective as well as a monetization perspective. In the ever-changing media and technology marriage we have today, that means being very measured and analytical about your approach on how to make sure you are maximizing the value of the content is the right way to go.
Ad Age: Your name was floated for several high-profile media gigs before you ended up here. Why Discovery?
Mr. Liguori: There were a number of opportunities I was looking at, but before I started my search, what was at the top of the list was who I was going to be working with. That really articulated itself in David, and the team that David's created that's there. I've been joking that even though David's from a second-class borough [Brooklyn], he's a first-class business leader, with an incredible, infectious personality and definitely has a point of view about these businesses. He's created a team of high-quality people who he has great faith in and he makes bold decisions. He's the kind of leader that sets big, bold, ambitious goals for his team and his businesses, and it's something I'm excited to be a part of.
Ad Age: It's worth noting that you've officially left the broadcast business for good at a pure-play cable company like Discovery. What's appealing about cable as a former broadcast programmer?
Mr. Liguori: The broadcast and cable business is still always about how great content conquers all. What's been so attractive about Discovery is it has a proven ability to create great content over the past few decades, so it clearly knows what an audience is thirsty for, and it does it in a high-quality, integrity-filled way. It's a real luxury to pair brands and programming with that level of quality and that level of authenticity. In terms of both broadcast and cable, the goal is to attract an audience with integrity.