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Executive Interview: Science Channel's Debbie Myers

Note: Debbie Myers is general manager of the Science Channel, and Executive Vice President of Programming for Discovery Emerging Networks. Ms. Myer's leads the development, production, scheduling, research, marketing and communications efforts for Science Channel, with direct responsibility for driving the revenue and ratings for the brand. We recently spoke with Ms. Myers about what's going on at Science Channel.

CU: I read an article in Fast Company that quoted the Science Channel brass as saying you're looking for hosts that are "chill yet energetic -- chillergetic" ... which I thought was a brilliant description of some of my favorite current hosts.  Have any other brilliant ways to describe the other key elements that make a program right for your network?

DM: No one size fits all for us.  We are always looking for unique personalities - people who are either authentic science experts or are passionate about science, and are able to be excited and confident about a topic or genre.

CU: What programs and/or genres are you looking for in the next year?

DM: Science Channel is always looking to push the boundaries of space, and we're doing so in 2010 with Space Week and a new series executive produced and narrated by Morgan Freeman.  We're also producing a science based trivia show called "Head Games," which launches in October and is executive produced by Whoopi Goldberg.  And, we're keeping our audience engaged and entertained with programs like "Catch It Keep It," "Science of the Movies," and the very popular "Punkin Chunkin" on Thanksgiving Day.  We'll also be looking for an innovative way to tell stories about great personalities in science history.

CU: How important are other platforms like broadband and mobile applications in the initial pitch?

DM: Other platforms are critical to us.  We take pride in viewing with a science 360 approach to content, and that means it exists on-air, online, mobile and in the classroom.  By its nature, science is cutting-edge and as a network we should therefore be able to maneuver nimbly with our content.

CU: What’s the best way for a producer to pitch you?

DM: Through our development team of Roger Henry, Sean McKnight and Michael Sorensen.

CU: What do you look for in a first-time producer besides a great idea?

DM: Normally with a first time producer we look for a partnership with a larger production company to do business with, or the opportunity to embed the producer with Discovery Studios where we can provide the infrastructure.

CU: What mistakes do producers make when pitching you?

DM: Not watching the channel and not doing their homework.  Also, some take too long to pitch an idea.  The best advice I can give is know the network and come in with a strong log line.  One sentence that you can sell the program with and then support it.

CU: What can global programmers learn from the US cable network market and from your network in particular?

DM: Know your niche, know your brand, know your audience and tell great stories.  Overall cable can tell great stories with less of a budget than broadcast.

CU: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

DM: You're not programming for yourself.

CU: What’s the best advice you’ve ever given?

DM: Relationships, relationships, relationships.  Work to build and nurture them.

CU: Who in this industry do you most admire and why?

DM: Well, I'm not itching for a raise but Clark Bunting is someone I admire greatly.  He is a brilliant manager, great motivator and a business and creative visionary.  Also, he is a firm believer in work/life balance.  But if I can't pick Clark then I'd have to say Steve Jobs.  He provided a creative business platform for those who thought differently.  And, he is such a great manager of creatives and someone who revolutionized not only technology but the music industry.

CU: What’s the smartest programming decision you have ever made?

DM: When I was at E! network we pushed to find a legal loophole that resulted in the creation of Talk Soup with Greg Kinnear.

CU: What’s the dumbest programming decision you have ever made?

DM: I don't have one that stands out above the others because I truly believe that you learn something new from your mistakes.

CU: Should NEVER be revived?

DM: I never say never to anything in this business

More Bio Information:

In addition to Science Channel, Ms. Myers spearheads the development, production and programming units for Investigation Discovery, Military Channel and HD Theater.

Myers joined Discovery Communications in June 2005 and has been responsible for more than 500 hours of content across all of Discovery’s networks, including the launch of TLC’s franchise Little People, Big World. Most recently, Myers was Senior Vice President, daytime and fringe programming for TLC. Previously, as Vice President of production for TLC, Myers created more than 500 hours of original content and oversaw the launches of LA Ink, Say Yes to the Dress, Big Medicine, Take Home Chef and Take Home Handyman as well as continuing series including What Not to Wear, Miami Ink and A Baby Story.

Prior to joining Discovery, Myers ran her own production company, Aha! Entertainment, where she created series and pilots for NBC, Paramount, VH-1 and 20th Television. Myers was also instrumental in launching several cable networks, including E! Entertainment and Oxygen. She served for eight years as Vice President of Programming and Development at E!, where she created and ran 17 signature series, including the Emmy Award-winning Talk Soup and E! News. Myers is the former Governor of the Production Executives group of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Myers holds a Bachelor of Science in Telecommunications and Film, Drama from San Diego State University-California State University.

Read CableU's Full Analysis of Science Channel