History is being rewritten at A+E Networks. FYI and LMN president Jana Bennett is taking over the channel from longtime History exec Dirk Hoogstra, who is leaving the company.
The shuffle comes as History has suffered through double-digit ratings declines in the past two years. Bennett has emerged as a star in the A+E universe thanks to the success of the lifestyle-oriented FYI channel, which bowed in 2013 as a relaunch of the Bio channel.
With Bennett’s appointment as president and g.m. of History, A+E will look to appoint a new leader for FYI and Lifetime’s sibling movie channel LMN. Bennett reports to Paul Buccieri, the former ITV Studios U.S. exec who joined A+E in January as president of A&E and History.
“I have long been a fan of Jana’s work, particularly with what she’s done with FYI and LMN,” said Buccieri. “Her vast experience in all genres of programming, marketing, distribution and digital is unparalleled.”
History has struggled of late from tough comparisons after the strong run that the channel had in years prior with hits such as “Pawn Stars” and buzzy event miniseries “Hatfields & McCoys” and “The Bible.”
The change atop History marks another management shift by A+E Networks CEO Nancy Dubuc, who earlier this year handed oversight of A&E Network to Lifetime boss Rob Sharenow. David McKillop, who had been running A&E, shifted to a production pact at the company in partnership with former National Geographic TV head Howard T. Owens.
Both cablers have felt the drag of declining cable ratings amid the growing competition in their respective programming niches and the shift in viewing patterns that has put a big dent in the ratings for most of the largest cable networks. That dynamic made Bennett’s success with FYI all the more remarkable. The channel put a provocative spin on lifestyle programming with high-concept reality series such as “Married At First Sight.” FYI has also tapped into cultural trends such as foodie fetishes and personal downsizing with the “Tiny House Nation” travelogue series.
“I have a passion for History – where we’ve come from and where we are headed,” said Bennett. “I am thrilled that I have been asked by Nancy and Paul to lead the team that will bring one of the strongest and most respected brands across the globe into new and exciting territory.”
Bennett will also oversee History sibling H2, although that channel is in the midst of being transformed into a Vice Media-branded outlet. A+E Networks took a 10% stake in Vice Media last year. The new-model H2 is expected to bow sometime next year.
Bennett came to A+E in 2013 from BBC Worldwide, where she was president of the global networks and iPlayer division. She managed a portfolio of 16 channels and spearheaded the rollout of the BBC’s SVOD service in foreign markets.
Bennett’s career has taken her back and forth from the U.K. to the U.S. She worked as g.m. of Discovery’s TLC more than a decade ago, where she shepherded such hits as “Trading Spaces” and “What Not to Wear.”
Meanwhile, Hoogstra intends to return to his roots as an independent producer.
Hoogstra joined History in 2007 as a programming exec and was upped to exec VP and g.m. in 2013. He started his career with a seven-year stint in various posts at Discovery Communications.
Along with Dubuc, Hoogstra was key in turning History into a top 10 cable network with a slate of reality and docu series that expanded the channel’s programming palate.
“We thank Dirk for his many contributions to History,” Buccieri said. “He was the force behind some of the network’s greatest successes that helped propel History to become one of entertainment’s top brands.”