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Discovery taps prexy of networks

Range of channels, push into VOD woo Miramax vet

Discovery Channel and its sister networks in the U.S. have gone showbiz for the post of president of Discovery Networks, U.S., signing Billy Campbell, former prexy of Miramax TV.

Campbell said he can’t wait to start work on the massive volume of reality programming that floods the schedules of Discovery and its 11 siblings.

“I whetted my appetite for real-life/real-world programming with ‘Project Greenlight,'” he said, referring to the Miramax series that grabbed the attention of the industry when HBO ran it earlier this year.

Behind the scenes

“Greenlight,” a 12-episode half-hour series, delved into the making of an indie film for Miramax by a first-time director, chosen from a script submitted as part of a contest sponsored by Miramax and its partners in the project, Ben Affleck, Matt Damon and Chris Moore.

Campbell said that, after his resignation from Miramax, Discovery tracked him down through a headhunter, inviting him to meet with the chiefs of the various Discovery divisions in Bethesda, Md.

Two elements bowled him over, Campbell said, and made taking the Discovery job an easy decision:

  • The range of U.S. networks he’ll get involved in, from the Learning Channel and Animal Planet to Travel Channel and Discovery Health.

  • The push by the company to expand into video-on-demand services for its most popular documentaries and into a digital network made up exclusively of Discovery programming filmed in high-definition video.

Small-screen experience

At Miramax TV, Campbell presided over “Wasteland” on ABC and “Glory Days” on the WB, two series produced by Kevin Williamson (“Dawson’s Creek”). Campbell also shepherded an animated half-hour series based on Kevin Smith’s indie film “Clerks.” The series flopped on ABC but scored in DVD and videocassette. Campbell’s last Miramax project is the forthcoming ABC mini “A Wrinkle in Time,” based on the book by Madeline L’Engle.

Before he joined Miramax in 1998, Campbell was executive VP of CBS Entertainment, focusing on new-program development. Earlier, he was senior VP of drama development for Warner Bros. TV. He started his career as an analyst of mergers and acquisitions at Smith Barney.