In reshuffle of PBS executive ranks, Hoppe ascends to chief programmer

By Dru Sefton

PBS has restructured its senior management, effective immediately, elevating programmer/producer Beth Hoppe to chief programming executive and general manager, according to a memo circulated to PBS stations today.

Chief programmer John Wilson, who has worn many hats since joining PBS in 1994, will focus on fundraising programs as senior v.p., pledge strategy and special projects. Wilson will “build on the experiments undertaken this year to reshape our pledge programming and will continue to work closely with PBS colleagues, producers and stations to develop these plans,” said PBS Chief Operating Officer Michael Jones, in his memo announcing the management changes.

Hoppe

Hoppe signed on at PBS last year as one of Wilson’s deputies. She has specialized in nonfiction programming during a TV career that includes a run as one of PBS’s hottest producers and a stint producing and developing science programming for Discovery Studios. During the early 2000s, Hoppe executive-produced the history-based hit reality TV series Colonial  House and Frontier House as a top producer for New York’s WNET.

Jones told Current that Hoppe “has shown that she has the experience and personality to work with stations and other producers” in commissioning and developing new programming. In the past year, Hoppe shepherded timely documentaries to the air including Steve Jobs: One Last Thing, and was also instrumental in bringing the popular British drama Call the Midwife to PBS, Jones said.

Both Hoppe and Wilson now report to Jones. “One area that was sorely in need of attention,” Jones said, “was developing an overall pledge strategy working with stations. Moving Beth into the chief programming executive role frees up John to take on this critical piece of our work.”

In the new hierarchy of PBS’s program office, Donald Thoms, who also had been a deputy to Wilson,  now reports to Hoppe as v.p., programming. In an interview with Current in May, all three programmers discussed their working relationship.

Thoms will continue to oversee arts and drama programming and independent film, as well as lead new talent development work. “That is something Donald did for three years at Discovery as the founder of its ‘Talent School,’” Jones said. Working with producers, Thoms will help identify talent in the fields of science, history, culture and other genres, and explore how they might be developed to work with current or new productions, Jones said.

Jones’s announcement includes a promotion for Mike Kelley, from v.p. of strategy and business affairs, to programming executive and v.p., content and business affairs. He’s “charged with integrating business strategy and planning into PBS’s general audience programming,” Jones’s announcement said.

Kelley reports to Hoppe and supervises Caryn Ginsberg, v.p. of content services, and Jack Dougherty, v.p. of business affairs.

Hoppe directly supervises several senior directors in programming: Bill Gardner, who oversees science, history and natural history content; Joe Campbell, v.p. fundraising programming; Shawn Halford, senior director, program scheduling; Lynn Seymour, senior director, content special projects; and Andy Halper, news and public affairs programming.

Lesli Rotenberg continues as general manager, children’s programming and senior v.p., marketing and communications. Reporting to her is Linda Simensky, v.p., children’s programming.

Rob Lippincott, former s.v.p. of education, has taken on responsibility for outreach activities and strategic relationships tied to education initiatives. His new title is s.v.p., educational strategy and partnerships.

Jason Seiken continues as general manager, digital. Karen Baile, who reports to Seiken, gets an expanded role as v.p., digital strategy, operations and PBS LearningMedia.

Also, Jayme Swain, senior director, strategic growth, PBS Interactive, will now report to Jones as v.p. of strategy and operations.

Jones’s memo to stations said PBS is “evolving our structure to better enable us to execute against our priorities and capitalize on opportunities.”

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