Rodgers: Discovery Departure 'Amicable'

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The revolving door at Discovery Communications Inc. kept spinning last week, as U.S. president Johnathan Rodgers resigned his post, effective March 31, to explore other "entrepreneurial" programming ventures.

While Rodgers called his departure from Discovery "amicable," sources said the executive was perturbed by some of the company's reorganizational moves, which curtailed some of his duties.

Rodgers, who joined DCI in 1996 to oversee Discovery Channel, had been responsible for the day-to-day operations of the 11-network division. He decided not to renew a contract that expired last December.

One of the highest-ranking African-American executives in cable, Rodgers said that during his tenure, the value of Discovery grew from $1 billion in 1996 to $20 billion today.

DCI senior vice president of communications David Leavy called Rodgers' departure "bittersweet" for the programmer, which wanted him to remain with the organization.

DCI has hired an undisclosed search firm to find Rodgers' replacement, although Leavy said the company is also considering several internal candidates.

Rodgers denied that his departure was influenced by DCI's recent efforts at corporate reorganization.

Last year — on the advice of consultancy McKinsey & Co. — the company decentralized its operations and created a seven-member content board that oversaw acquisition, branding and operating efforts, once the sole domain of Rodgers.

Rodgers, who served on the board along with DCI chairman John Hendricks, president and COO Judith McHale and Discovery Networks content group president John Ford, said it helped him to better manage his time. It also afforded him greater input from both Hendricks and McHale.

Leavy called Rodgers's dismay over DCI's reorganizational moves "inaccurate" and defended the network's decision to decentralize its operations.

"Given its tremendous growth, Discovery needed a centralized, top-line strategy to handle content and branding issues, and Jonathan was a key member of that team," Leavy said.

Rumors of a potential Discovery sale did not influence Rodgers in his decision, he insisted. Last year, broadcast network NBC courted DCI, although sources said the network is neither seeking a buyer nor entertaining any offers.

Rodgers said he has no imminent future plans, but hinted that he would like to get involved in some "entrepreneurial" opportunities, possibly revolving around the launch of an African-American based network.

Rodgers confirmed talks with several potential African-American services — as well as executives from the struggling New Urban Entertainment TV network — but isn't close to reaching any deals. Rodgers also said he may travel or "take time and reflect" on his future.

Rodgers is the latest Discovery executive to jump ship over the past year. The Learning Channel executive vice president Jana Bennett will rejoin the British Broadcasting Corp. in April and former Discovery Channel general manager Mike Quattrone; his wife Kathy, who had been general manager of Discovery Health Channel; and Charley Humbard, who had led the company's diginets, have also departed.

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