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Koppel Joins Discovery

Former Nightline anchor Ted Koppel has cut a deal to produce and host programs exclusively for Discovery Channel.

Koppel will be managing editor at the cable network and will be joined by longtime Nightline executive producer Tom Bettag and eight former Nightline staff members.

Koppel and Bettag will develop a slate of shows described only as "long-form," though Koppel's trademark town hall meetings on important issues will be part of the mix.

Koppel is tied to Discovery Channel, but Bettag and his staff will be part of a production unit that services all of Discovery's domestic networks. The team's first shows should hit the air next fall.

Koppel and Bettag decided to team up on documentary and other news programming after the longtime anchor exited ABC last month.

Koppel and Bettag had long been in talks with HBO, which is appealing because of its reputation for quality, prominence in the documentary world and -- as a commercial-free channel -- immunity to Nielsen ratings. But the duo ultimately decided that Discovery is a better fit for news and issues-oriented shows.

Koppel said of the decision to go with Discovery: " [HBO] is essentially an entertainment company. We would have been something of an appendage there. Here, we’re part of what this organization is.
"If you were to go to any one of the commercial networks right now, where we have all made our lives, [and said]. 'I have a teriffic idea to do a one-hour program, followed by the one-and-a-half hour town hall, can you give us the 8-11 slot?', you know what the reaction would be." 

Koppel said that the news business is often "locked in a desperate race to be first with the obvious. There is a tendency to pay attention to what is recent as opposed to what is important. He added that HBO sibling CNN "does some very fine documentaries, but they tend to bury them on weekends."