Discovery Inc.’s Animal Planet global president Susanna Dinnage has been named to head the English Premier League, taking the reins from former chief Richard Scudamore and becoming one of the most powerful women in international sports.
Dinnage is expected to assume her role sometime in early 2019. Scudamore, who has served as executive chairman of the British soccer league for more than 20 years, will step down at the end of 2018. The Premier League clubs had earlier agreed to split Scudamore’s role, with Dinnage becoming chief executive. A search is underway for a non-executive chair.
"We are very pleased to appoint such a capable leader to this important role," said chairman of the Chelsea club and the Premier League’s nominations committee Bruce Buck in a statement. "We had a very strong field, but Susanna was the outstanding choice given her track record in managing complex businesses through transformation and digital disruption.
"She is a leading figure in the broadcasting industry, a proven business executive and a great developer of people. She is ideally suited to the role and we are confident she will be able to take the Premier League on to new heights.
"Richard Scudamore, having provided exceptional stewardship for almost 20 years, will leave us at the end of the year in great shape and with an excellent Executive Team and Board able to fully support Susanna."
The English Premier League is the top soccer league in the U.K. and is popular around the world. One of Dinnage’s tasks after assuming her new role will be to keep the League’s lucrative TV rights on an upward trajectory, while navigating new deals with digital distributors.
Earlier Monday the EPL reached a deal with digital distributor DAZN for rights to show matches in Spain. And earlier this year online retail giant Amazon inked a three-year deal for U.K. rights to show two EPL matchdays on its Amazon Prime Video service.
"I am excited at the prospect of taking on this fantastic role,” Dinnage said in a statement. "The Premier League means so much to so many people. It represents the pinnacle of professional sport and the opportunity to lead such a dynamic and inspirational organisation is a great privilege. With the support of clubs and the team, I look forward to extending the success of the League for many years to come."
Dinnage has experience in negotiating deals. According to The Guardian, she has negotiated deals with the U.K.’s largest satellite distributor Sky plc -- now owned by Comcast and the EPL’s top distributor -- over carriage of Animal Planet in the past.
"Susanna has been a terrific leader for Discovery over the last 10 years,” said Discovery International president J.B. Perrette in a statement. “She has a strong understanding of brands and running diverse media businesses both in the U.K. and more recently with Animal Planet globally. She has been a fantastic teammate for all of us at Discovery and we are delighted that she has been given this unique and groundbreaking opportunity to lead one of the world’s pre-eminent sports organizations."
As global president of Animal Planet, Dinnage had oversight of teams in both the U.S. and the U.K. Discovery said a replacement is still to be determined.