Fall TV 2016 – Talking with Discovery President Rich Ross

Discovery President Rich Ross.

You’ve been president of the network for a year and a half. What was the charge when you took the job? When I was given the mantle, the challenge was to create programming that makes our viewers feel that it’s the Discovery they remember and the Discovery they love, but also to make it for the world we live in today, as we continue to evolve. What’s your report card? Where are you today? We’re the number one non-sports network for men. Our brand just got voted as the must-have for people asking what they would want in over-the-tops. We’ve got a raft of Emmy nomination. We got an Oscar nomination. We’re launching my first scripted series. People are coming for everything from our series to our documentaries. So I feel good. What are the highlights? I’m excited we re-innovated Shark Week, which is core to who we are. Another highlight was launching Racing to Extinction to 220 countries and territories, and getting a lot of people to watch. It was the most-watched documentary in three years, and it got an Oscar nomination. Plus more men, more young men, more women, and more African-American and Hispanic men are watching. We’re a brand for everyone. Killing Fields was also a big creative swing for you. We live in a noisy marketplace so you have to work with the best storytellers, and Tom Fontana, to me, is like a god of television. I grew up with his shows. We were pitched the show by an incredibly smart and capable production company, and I said, “I think we’ll be better if we introduce Tom and Barry Levinson to this,” and they said, “Okay.” I think Killing Fields was one of the very good true crime shows of the year, in a space that’s very saturated. As a network president, what are your hours? I work traditional hours in the office, but my boss is in New York, so twice a week I have a call at 5 am, and then of course I’m in L.A., and everything is part of the entertainment world. But I keep a healthy balance with a good life. What’s a non-brand TV show you’ve watched lately? Happy Valley. It’s on Netflix, but it’s a BBC show.  I love the naturalness, and Sarah Lancashire is mind-blowing. What’s the last show you binge-watched? Mr. Robot. I binged the first season, and now I’m into the current season. I’m a huge fan of Rami. When you were a kid, what shows did you watch? My dad just turned ninety and he was a very big television viewer, very successful in his career, but always made time on Saturday morning to watch TV with me, and I remember us watching The Pink Panther. Then, there were all the comedies, everything from Sandford and Son to The Jeffersons to Laugh-In. I did all my homework while watching Mayberry R.F.D.  If you had to spend a week outdoors, which would you rather, Alaskan Bush People or Deadliest Catch? Easy. The Alaskan Bush People. Because I once got seasick and wanted to kill myself. It was terrible. I ski and I’m good outside, so it’s The Alaskan Bush People. Last question: Naked and Afraid – yes or no? I would do it. I have acid reflux so the eating might be an issue but I’m not sure the rest of it is as scary to me.