Former ‘Nightline’ Anchor Will Produce Shows for Discovery Channel

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NEW YORK ( -- Discovery Channel is counting on a little star power to dig itself out of a ratings hole.
Photo: AP
Ted Koppel

The network has landed the much sought-after Ted Koppel, his executive producer Tom Bettag and eight “Nightline” staffers to produce long-form programming exclusively for Discovery Channel. The programming will examine major global topics and events.

Managing editor
Mr. Koppel will assume the title of managing editor at Discovery Channel, and he and Mr. Bettag will report to Discovery Networks President Billy Campbell.

“Our objective is to create a more substantial approach to in-depth journalism,” Mr. Campbell said. “We want audiences to know that when there is a major world event or topic that affects our lives, and they are looking for more context, more depth and more information, Discovery Channel is where they will find it."

Shift in strategy
Mr. Koppel’s hiring signals a shift in Discovery Channel’s programming strategies. While his style is more hard-news oriented than the network has previously employed, tackling global topics will inch it closer to Discovery's original mission of documentaries and nature shows. Discovery Channel has been criticized in recent years for veering too far from its original path with programs such as “American Chopper” and “Monster Garage.” In the past year, Discovery Channel has stumbled ratings-wise, its 18-to-49 viewers dropping 12% and 25- to 54-year-old viewers off 11%.

Mr. Koppel has been a hot property since leaving ABC’s “World News Tonight” desk, having been courted by HBO as well. At Discovery, he and Mr. Bettag will work with programming executives to develop at least a half-dozen long-form programs a year. The first program is scheduled to air in fall 2006.

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