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History President Jana Bennett To Depart

Deadline logo Deadline 5/5/2017 Nellie Andreeva
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History president and general manager Jana Bennett is leaving after 20 months in the job and almost four years at A+E Networks. The British-born veteran UK and U.S. network executive will be launching a production venture based in London and New York which will focus on creating content for both the British and American markets. A replacement is expected to be named soon.

In the interim, EVP and Head of Programming Paul Cabana and the rest of History’s senior executive team will report to Paul Buccieri, president of A&E and History.

In a memo, A+E Networks president and CEO Nancy Dubuc, who recruited Bennett in 2013 to take over and transform Bio into FYI and also run LMN, said Bennett approached her with her plans of leaving to start a new company this spring.

“I’m immensely grateful for the amazing job she has done here at A+E Networks,” Dubuc said. “From launching FYI to wide acclaim, to growing LMN, to leading History back into growth and securing its position as a premium brand, Jana has been a valued member of the Management Team.” (Read Dubuc’s full email below.)

History is A+E Networks’ flagship brand and remains its highest-rated network. For Q1 2017, History, a top 10 basic cable network in total viewers and adults 25-54, drew 1.504 million viewers in primetime, up 8% from the same period last year (1.383 million). The network recently launched breakout Navy SEAL drama Six, which has been renewed for a second season. Its strongest unscripted performers introduced in the past few years include The Curse Of Oak Island and Alone.

“Now that History is back to growth, it’s time for me to start my next chapter,” Bennett said in her own note to the company staff (read it in its entirety below). “This was a difficult decision and Nancy was incredibly understanding about my desire to spend some of my time in the UK. Having been lucky enough to have worked in media on both sides of the Atlantic, I’ll be leaving later this summer to set up my new venture based here and in London.”

Bennett joined A+E Networks in June 2013 when she was named president of FYI and LMN. She spearheaded Bio’s successful relaunch as FYI with new original series such as Married At First Sight, Arranged, Seven Year Switch, Tiny House Nation, Tiny House Hunting and Man Vs. Child: Chef Showdown. Bennett also spearheaded the reinvention of the LMN brand, introducing original unscripted series to the lineup including Escaping Polygamy, I Love You But I Lied and Monster In My Family, with both nets posting ratings growth under her leadership.

Bennett previously headed up BBC Television and served as general manager of TLC.

Separately, History veteran Russ McCarroll, most recently SVP Development & Programming, also is leaving the company. Since joining the network in 2008, he has developed such shows as scripted event miniseries Sons Of Liberty, reality series Alone and Mountain Men, and the Emmy-nominated The World Wars and The Men Who Built America. McCarroll, promoted from VP to SVP in September 2015, has also overseen series such as Pawn Stars, Ax Men and Top Gear. 

Here is Dubuc’s memo about Bennett’s departure:

Nearly four years ago, Jana Bennett moved from London and joined A+E Networks to launch FYI. This spring, Jana came to me and told me that she wanted to split her time between London and NY and start a new entrepreneurial venture aimed at creating the best of British and American content for both markets.

I’m immensely grateful for the amazing job she has done here at A+E Networks. From launching FYI to wide acclaim, to growing LMN, to leading HISTORY back into growth and securing its position as a premium brand, Jana has been a valued member of the Management Team.

Over the last two years at HISTORY, Jana has built a strong lineup of historical documentary series and boosted its scripted slate, successfully launching ROOTS and SIX. She has helped build a powerful pipeline of other new series, and with the very promising Knightfall coming later this year, is making HISTORY the destination for historically based drama.

Our company has benefited from the many formats and series developed under her watch including Married at First Sight, Seven Year Switch, the Tiny House franchise and Escaping Polygamy.

I am enormously grateful for the leadership, passion and commitment she has brought to A+E Networks. Please join me in wishing Jana all the best in her new endeavor.

Paul Cabana and the HISTORY team will report directly to Paul Buccieri.

Here is Bennett’s note to her colleagues:

When I came to the U.S. to launch FYI and run LMN, I had no idea I would end up staying on to lead HISTORY. I’m very thankful to Nancy for giving me such amazing brands to run and I am hugely proud of what the talented teams at all three channels have achieved.

Now that HISTORY is back to growth, it’s time for me to start my next chapter. This was a difficult decision and Nancy was incredibly understanding about my desire to spend some of my time in the UK.  Having been lucky enough to have worked in media on both sides of the Atlantic, I’ll be leaving later this summer to set up my new venture based here and in London.

I am confident that HISTORY will go from strength to strength and will continue to tell stories that America and the rest of the world loves.

I will miss the many creative and talented people I’ve worked with inside A+E, as well as our fantastic partners in production and the many institutions that work with HISTORY. Thank you to everyone for making me feel so at home. I will remain a proud Brooklynite wherever I am based, but unfortunately, despite everyone’s best efforts in the A+E office, I STILL leave with a minimal understanding of U.S. sports!

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