With High Hopes, Discovery to Boost ID

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Henry Schleiff landed at Discovery Communications' digital network, ID: Investigation Discovery, at just the right time: as gets a boost from new investment.

Schleiff, who left his job as CEO of Crown Media Holdings, parent of Hallmark Channel, on May 31, is scheduled to assume the newly created position on Aug. 1.

Schleiff will oversee program development, production, scheduling, research, marketing and revenue. He will report to Discovery Emerging Networks chief Clark Bunting.

Schleiff's new position returns him to familiar turf: He was chairman and CEO of Court TV, which focused on the legal realm. That service later became TruTV, following Time Warner's acquisition of Liberty Media's stake in the channel.

At the Credit Suisse Media and Communications Convergence conference last week in Dana Point, Calif., Discovery Communications chief financial officer Brad Singer said that emerging networks like ID are the future growth engines of the company.

“We think the forensics genre and crime genre is one we can keep building on,” Singer said. “We've had double-digit viewership growth in that one. That's another key initiative that we are putting some money behind.”

Schleiff said one of his first priorities will be to grow distribution for the network, formerly known as Discovery Times Channel. ID is currently available in about 54 million homes (see Q&A, this page).

“I think the audience out there now is increasingly tired of reality TV told from the outside, where it's third-party voyeuristic television,” Schleiff said. “What people will never get tired of is great story-telling.”

Since its launch in January of 2008, Investigation Discovery has experienced 16 consecutive months of year-over-year primetime household gains and is the fastest- growing cable network among the target demo of women 25 to 54, according to network officials.

Over that period, ID has debuted more than 16 original series, including The Shift, Wicked Attraction, Dallas DNA, Extreme Forensics, Call 911 and the upcoming On the Case With Paula Zahn. All told, seven of the 10 series it launched during its first year have returned for additional seasons, said officials.

When he was at Court TV, Schleiff was known as an aggressive marketer. While he plans on stepping up efforts at ID, he said it will probably be more along the lines of cross-promoting it on Discovery networks.

“I see spots for ID on Science Channel, I see them on Discovery, I see them across the board and conversely. That's something I never had as a true independent at Hallmark or even on Court TV,” Schleiff said. “The best place to catch people is when they're watching cable television.

“I have known Henry for more than 20 years, and he is an accomplished and seasoned programming leader with an unparalleled track record in the investigative genre,” said Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav in a statement. “Hiring someone of Henry's experience and stature in the industry underscores the confidence we have in the potential and growth of Investigation Discovery.”