Discovery Networks U.S. has named a CBS broadcast veteran
and TV producer as senior vice president and general manager of The Travel Channel -- the
network that it's trying to get into a turnaround mode.
Jay Feldman, most recently president of Jay Feldman Co.,
was named to the posts at Travel by Johnathan Rodgers, president of Discovery Networks
U.S., who cited Feldman's background as a producer and packager of nonfiction
programming. Both men previously worked together at CBS, on the TV-station side.
'This is an opportunity to build something almost from
scratch,' said Feldman, who is moving from Los Angeles to join Travel in Bethesda,
Md., at its new headquarters. 'It's [travel] an obvious [concept] that
hasn't worked. But if you apply Discovery's set of skills, it can work.'
Only a handful of Travel's old staff are staying on
and making the move to Bethesda, where Discovery is relocating the network. Tom Lucas,
who'd been acting general manager, will stay on as vice president of advertising and
promotions, as will Carlton Lockard as vice president of affiliate sales.
At least seven Travel staffers, including ex-general
manager T. Bahnson Stanley, went over to The Weather Channel, which is owned by former
Travel owner Landmark Communications Inc. Stanley is now senior vice president of local
and digital products at TWC.
At his own company, Feldman developed and packaged
nonfiction programming for networks including Discovery Channel, The Learning Channel,
A&E Network and Lifetime Television.
Feldman said Discovery has the financial resources to help
him revamp and broaden Travel's programming. Travel will now be catering to the
'armchair traveler,' and Feldman aims to find 'attractive, intelligent,
authentic' show hosts that viewers will want to 'travel' with.
Discovery also wants to bump Travel's analog
distribution up to at least 40 million from its current total of 20 million subscribers.
Discovery last year paid $20 million to acquire a 70
percent stake in Travel from Paxson Communications Corp. Earlier last year, Paxson had
paid $75 million to buy Travel from Landmark.
Ironically, Feldman, who has worked at a variety of CBS
owned-and-operated TV stations, is Rodgers' former boss. When Feldman was news
director at CBS' WBBM-TV in Chicago in 1975, he hired Rodgers as his assistant news
director. The two worked on and off together. Rodgers went on to become head of CBS'
TV stations, and Feldman, from 1993 until the sale of CBS Inc. to Westinghouse Electric
Corp., was a consultant for first-run syndication to the CBS stations, and he also worked
for Lorimar Telepictures and Telepictures Corp. at different points.
Feldman also said his experience as a local broadcaster
with CBS will help him to forge partnerships and to create local identifications for cable