Laureen Ong to Head Travel

WASHINGTON — Laureen Ong,
a veteran television executive
who helped launch the National
Geographic Channel in
2001, has been named as the
new president of Scripps Networks-
owned Travel Channel.

Ong, 57, was selected after
a nationwide search following
Scripps’ acquisition of Travel
Channel last December.

Ong will join Travel today
(April 19). She has been chief
operating officer of Hong
Kong-based Star Group for the
past three years.

Patrick Younge, who had
overseen Travel Channel’s
growth since 2005, left the
network to return to his home
in London.

Scripps also has named
Jonathan Sichel as general
manager of the network. Sichel,
formerly senior vice president
of commercial affairs and
operations at Travel Channel,
has served as interim general
manager since the acquisition
by Scripps.

Sichel will work closely
with Ong as the pair focuses
on building the brand, developing
additional programming
and talent to increase
ratings, and creating new
business opportunities for
Travel Channel.

Sichel, 43, has been with
Travel Channel for three years.

Last year was Travel Channel’s
most successful, with
viewing for adults 25 to 54 at
all-time highs in both primetime
and total day. The ratings
success has continued into
2010, as the February special
Man v Food Live was the toprated
telecast in the first quarter,
setting a ratings record for
a Travel Channel live event,
Scripps said.

The network also has introduced
more original series,
including Food Wars, which
premiered on March 9 and
delivered the second-highest
ratings for adults 25-54 of any
new series in Travel Channel
history, Scripps said.

“Laureen has the brand
experience and proven track
record in developing non-fiction
television that will help
us build on the recent success
that Travel Channel has
achieved,” Kenneth Lowe,
chairman and CEO of Scripps
Networks Interactive, said in a
release. “She also has an excellent
business acumen that will
facilitate expanding the brand
into new ventures within the
travel category, much like we
have done with Food Network
and HGTV.”