×

One of Discovery’s top international executives, Animal Planet global chief Susanna Dinnage, is jumping ship to take the top job at the English Premier League.

The Premier League is England’s top soccer league and also hugely popular around the world. The TV rights are among the most lucrative in international sports.

Dinnage’s move is a surprise, coming not long after she was upped to become the first-ever global boss at Animal Planet. A successor has not been announced. Just last month, Dinnage told Variety about her plans for the Discovery-owned natural history channel.

She will now swap wildlife for soccer stadiums, beginning in early 2019. She replaces Richard Scudamore at the Premier League. He leaves at the end of 2018 after almost 20 years.

“We had a very strong field, but Susanna was the outstanding choice given her track record in managing complex businesses through transformation and digital disruption,” said Bruce Buck, chairman of Chelsea Football Club and the Premier League’s nominations committee.

“She is a leading figure in the broadcasting industry, a proven business executive and a great developer of people. She is ideally suited to the role and we are confident she will be able to take the Premier League on to new heights.”

JB Perrette, President and CEO of Discovery Networks International, said: “Susanna has been a terrific leader for Discovery over the last 10 years. She has a strong understanding of brands and running diverse media businesses both in the U.K. and more recently with Animal Planet globally.

“She has been a fantastic teammate for all of us at Discovery, and we are delighted that she has been given this unique and groundbreaking opportunity to lead one of the world’s preeminent sports organizations.”

Dinnage, who was upped from U.K. boss at Discovery when she took the Animal Planet role, will start at the Premier League at a yet-to-be-decided date in 2019. Her move from Discovery, ironically, comes as the U.S.-listed company gets more deeply into international sports. Having bought Eurosport it has landed European rights to the Olympics and is launching a golf streaming service with the PGA Tour.

“The Premier League means so much to so many people,” Dinnage said. “It represents the pinnacle of professional sport and the opportunity to lead such a dynamic and inspirational organisation is a great privilege. With the support of clubs and the team, I look forward to extending the success of the League for many years to come.”