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John Ford to Replace Root as Discovery Channel President

Jane Root has been unearthed as president and general manager Discovery Channel and Science Channel.

Discovery Times president and general manager John Ford, who returned to the Discovery fold in September, will now head up the 96 million subscriber channel, Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav said Wednesday.

Root joined Discovery in 2004 after coming over from United Kingdom broadcaster BBC2 and was behind some of the network’s most successful shows such as Dirty Jobs. In November, the network averaged a 0.9 rating, up 13% from the same period in 2006.

But Zaslav believes Ford, who came back to Discovery in September after leaving the company in 2003 to become National Geographic Channel's executive vice president of programming and production, can take the Discovery brand to the next level. 

“We’ve come a long way to re-establishing Discovery’s brand as a real powerhouse, but I think Discovery can be even bigger and stronger, and become the marquee brand in cable,” he said. “The minute I came to Discovery I wanted to bring Ford in … I’ve known him for 20 years and I think he’s probably the best non-fiction programmer I’ve come across. I think he’s the right guy at the right time to take Discovery to the next level.”

Zaslav said Discovery Studios president Clarke Bunting will take over the helm of both the Discovery Times Channel (soon to be rebranded Investigation Discovery) as well as Military Channel. He added Discovery is searching for an executive to head the Science Channel.

While Zaslav said the company is still in the midst of a reorganization that began back in February, he said he's comfortable with his executive lineup.

“In terms of our overall leadership, I think we’re in good shape,” he said. 

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.