Former “Nightline” host Ted Koppel and his documentary team are taking a buyout from the Discovery Channel six months before the end of their contracts.
Both sides said it was clear there was no interest in continuing to work together. Koppel’s last project, a documentary about lynching in the United States called “The Last Lynching,” aired a few weeks ago.
Top management at both the network and its parent company, Discovery Communications Inc., has changed since Koppel arrived there from ABC’s “Nightline” in January 2006.
The new management is more interested in projects that can be rerun for a long period of time both in the U.S. and internationally, and news programs have a shorter shelf life, said company spokesman David Leavy.
Koppel also noted that the documentary unit is expensive for Discovery, perhaps more of an issue since the company went public two months ago.
“We leave with gratitude for the professional opportunities we’ve been given and for the generosity with which we’ve been treated,” Koppel said.
The veteran newsman, 68, wants to stay in the business, but not at the six-documentary-a-year pace that had been set with his Discovery contract.
Among his work at Discovery: a four-hour documentary on the changes to Chinese society, which aired before the Olympics this summer, and “Living With Cancer,” a piece that chronicled the health fight of former “Nightline” colleague Leroy Sievers.
Koppel’s documentary unit is breaking up, but not his professional relationship with longtime producer Tom Bettag.
“Ted and I have worked together for a long time and hope to continue to do more good news programming,” Bettag said Tuesday. “We just don’t know where it will be at this point.”