Aussie execs play musical chairs at National Geographic Channels

16 April, 2014 by Don Groves

Veteran News Corp executive David Hill has been named chairman of National Geographic Channels Group and David Lyle is departing as the US CEO.

This shake-up follows Monday’s announcement that Howard Owens, the president of the division, is leaving in June.


The timing is curious because the Nat Geo Channels are posting record profits and some of their shows are enjoying their highest -ever ratings in the US.

US media reports indicated Owens and Lyle had clashed with the top brass at the National Geographic Society, which co-owns the channels with Fox Networks.

Lyle is being replaced by Courteney Monroe, who had served as chief marketing officer. In his three years as CEO, the Washington-based NGC launched franchise series including Brain Games, Wicked Tuna, Inside Combat Rescue and Life Below Zero, and its first ventures into scripted programming with SEAL Team Six, telemovies Killing Lincoln and Killing Kennedy, and Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, which NGC co-produces with Fox.

Lyle held senior executive positions at FremantleMedia (where he helped launch American Idol), Pearson Television and Australia’s Nine Network before he joined Fox in 2005.

In an email to staff Lyle said he is looking forward to returning to sunny Los Angeles from snowy Washington and pursuing new projects and opportunities.

“I’m exhilarated that NGC and NG WILD are in rude health with EBITDAs (profits) at all-time highs, and with programming featuring the most watched specials, series and year (sic) in the channels’ history,” he said. “And I’m extra pleased that these successes have transferred to National Geographic Channels internationally.

"But business and programming successes aside, I am thrilled that as a team we took the risks and introduced new genres of shows like drama, and even had a go at comedy. Over the last three years we have changed the face of the Channel by introducing contemporary entertainment to the proud 125 year tradition of authenticity."

Hill, who is Senior Executive Vice President of 21st Century Fox and a member of the National Geographic Channels board, will continue to oversee production of American Idol.