In figuring out his next path after deciding that he would leave the Hallmark Channel, Henry Schleiff did a little investigating of his own.
And after looking at a slew of emerging networks over time, the long time media executive determined that there was one and only one network for him: ID: Investigation Discovery. All that remained was being offered the job.
In an interview Tuesday, the always affable Schleiff said that in the course of trying to sell Hallmark - one of the reasons he was hired as CEO in 2006 - he conducted his own internal survey of networks he would like to work for. While the long-time media executive - he is perhaps best known for piloting Court TV (now TruTV) to prominence - likely could have his pick of networks, one network kept coming up: Investigation Discovery.
Schleiff said it was he who made the first call to Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav, a long-time friend. Once in Zaslav's office, Schleiff was determined to pitch his worth to ID.
"I think I got to the ‘I' out before I even got to the "D" and David said ‘great idea,'" Schleiff said. "It's a great match, a perfect match."
Schleiff said that the network met his three top criteria: Great people that he likes to be around ("Is there anybody who is a quicker, smarter or better guy than David Zaslav?" Schleiff asked); a strong brand ("Discovery is the No. 1 non-fiction media company in the world," he continued); and programming that he can relate to ("This is Court TV on speed," Schleiff said.)
Schleiff is scheduled to take his new position on Aug. 1 and will split his time between New York and Bethesda, Md., Discovery's headquarters.
Schleiff said one of his first priorities will be to grow distribution for the channel, formerly known as Discovery Times. ID is currently available in about 54 million homes.
"You have to increase distribution, and with distribution comes greater sampling, and with sampling comes better ratings and with ratings comes better revenue," Schleiff said. "You can't do one without impacting the other. And by the way, if you don't do one, then all the others don't fall into place. That's the hard part. It helps if you have something to sell."
Schleiff said that something is ID's unique ability to tell stories that engage the viewer.
"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. You are taken into a story when you become part of the first person. I think the hallmark of this network is that it tells stories in the first person."
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 the channel on other 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.