NEW YORK (Reuters) - Discovery Communications Inc appointed former Fox executive Peter Liguori as chief operating officer and said he will represent the company in its joint ventures with Oprah Winfrey and Hasbro Inc.
Liguori, 49, will join Discovery on January 19, bringing his expertise in making Hollywood hits to a fast-growing cable network that specializes in adventure, travel and cooking shows like “MythBusters” and “Shark Week.”
In an interview with Reuters, Liguori said he first sat down for coffee with Discovery Chief Executive David Zaslav in New York over the summer before talks about the role turned serious six weeks ago.
“All roads seemed to point to Discovery and David,” said Liguori, formerly president of entertainment for News Corp’s Fox Broadcasting Co, where he was responsible for program development and marketing.
Prior to that, Liguori headed News Corp’s FX Networks and also worked for Time Warner Inc’s HBO.
Credited with building FX into a cable power with acclaimed series like “The Shield,” Liguori said he was confident the same “minerals and elements” that worked in scripted shows would work in non-fiction.
“There is a change, but I don’t think the plates are as tectonically different as one may think,” he said. “It’s stories, it’s stakes and it’s characters.”
Since leaving News Corp last March, Liguori has taught a course at UCLA on the difference between cable and broadcasts television businesses. He also served as a consultant to Comcast Corp on its acquisition of a controlling stake in of NBC Universal.
At Discovery, owner of the Discovery Channel, Animal Planet and TLC, Liguori will be responsible for the company’s joint ventures with Winfrey and Hasbro, among other duties.
The Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) is 50 percent-owned by Discovery, and could draw in substantial audiences since Winfrey will be leaving broadcast TV in September 2011, when she ends her popular daytime show.
In all, Discovery runs more than 100 networks in 170 countries and has been one of the best-performing media companies this year, thanks largely to the dual revenue streams of advertising and subscriptions that cable provides.
Shares of the company, based in Silver Spring, Maryland, have more than doubled this year. The stock rose 0.35 percent to $31.49 in Monday trading.
Reporting by Paul Thomasch and Tiffany Wu; editing by John Wallace