Rich Ross

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Rich Ross
Nationality American
Alma mater University of Pennsylvania
Fordham University School of Law
Occupation President of Discovery Channel Discovery Channel
Spouse(s) Adam Sanderson

Rich Ross is Group President of Discovery Channel, Animal Planet and Science Channel [1] He has been with Discovery since January 5, 2015. Earlier, he was the Chief Executive Officer of Shine America, responsible for commercial strategy of the Shine Group in the United States.[2] He had previously been the president of entertainment at Disney Channel, and chairman of Walt Disney Studios. When Ross was named Chairman of Walt Disney Studios in 2009, he became the first openly gay studio chief.[3]

Ross discussed his plans for the direction he is taking Discovery Channel on January 8, 2015 at the 2015 Television Critics Association press tour that included hiring key senior level executives to oversee documentaries and specials, as well as scripted programming.[4] Ross' early contributions to Discovery have been significant. He's overseen two record-setting quarters, the highest-rated Shark Week ever (with a move away from controversial scripted efforts of past years) and its most-watched July ever.[5]

Early life

Ross grew up in Eastchester, New York.[6] His father, Marty, was a garment-industry executive, and his mother, Harriet, was a former teacher turned real-estate agent.[6][7] Ross is Jewish.[8] He graduated from Eastchester High School.[9] When he was 19, he was hired to work in the mail room at the William Morris Agency in New York.[6] He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1983 with a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations and English. In 1986, he earned his J.D. degree from Fordham University.[10]


Ross’s first job in the entertainment industry was as a talent booker at Nickelodeon. He built the Nickelodeon/Nick at Nite talent relations department and oversaw casting and talent booking for the network's shows including Clarissa Explains It All and Hey Dude.[6] He served as executive producer of Nickelodeon’s Kids’ Choice Awards. As vice president of program enterprises at Nickelodeon, Ross was involved in all original-programming deals and launched Nick News with Linda Ellerbee into syndication. He was a part of the launch team for Nickelodeon’s first international network, Nickelodeon UK. He joined FX Networks in 1993 and was a member of the executive team that launched the cable network.


In 1996, Ross joined Disney Channel in programming and production as a senior vice president, becoming general manager and executive vice president in 1999. In 2002 he became president of entertainment for Disney Channel, before being named president of Disney Channels Worldwide in 2004, where he oversaw the Disney Channel, Disney XD, Playhouse Disney, Disney Cinemagic, Hungama, GXT, Jetix, and Radio Disney brands. He is credited with establishing Disney's global kids' TV business as the prime entertainment source for the tween market with shows like Hannah Montana, Lizzie McGuire,[7] Wizards of Waverly Place, The Suite Life of Zack & Cody and The Suite Life on Deck, That's So Raven and Phineas and Ferb. He launched the highly successful Disney Channel Original Movie franchise that produced the worldwide hit High School Musical series, as well as the Camp Rock and The Cheetah Girls series. Popular Playhouse Disney shows developed during his tenure include Handy Manny and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.[11]

Ross was named Chairman of Walt Disney Studios in October 2009, overseeing Disney’s film, music, and theatrical groups. Films released during Ross’ tenure include the billion-dollar hits Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Disney's Alice in Wonderland and Disney-Pixar’s Toy Story 3, which are three of the top 11 highest-grossing films of all time;[12] Disney’s The Muppets; DreamWorks Studios’ The Help; and Disney-Pixar’s Cars 2.[13]

Ross' tenure as Chairman was marred by two box-office flops. The 2011 animated movie Mars Needs Moms had a production budget of $150 million[14] and made $42.8 million in box office and DVD sales.[15] The March 2012 opening of John Carter was another high-profile flop; John Carter had a production budget of $250 million and earned just over $69 million at the box office in North America.[16] Due to the film's weak North American performance compared to its high production and marketing costs, Disney expected the film would generate a loss of about $200 million during its second fiscal quarter,[17] although its box office strength outside North America led some analysts to speculate that the write-down would be significantly less than expected.[18]

Ross left Disney on April 20, 2012, with John Carter and Mars Needs Moms cited as reasons for his departure.[19] It was reported that Ross sought to blame Pixar for John Carter, which prompted key Pixar executives to turn against Ross who already had alienated many within the studio.[20]

Shine America

Rich Ross became the Chief Executive Officer for Shine America in January 2013.[21] He was responsible for the ongoing commercial strategy of the Shine Group in the United States, overseeing production, distribution and marketing of original programming across broadcast, cable and digital platforms.[22]

Discovery Channel, Animal Planet and Science Channel

Rich Ross became President of Discovery Channel in January 2015 and in August of the same year was named Group President of Discovery Channel, Animal Planet and Science Channel. He oversees creative and brand strategy, development, production, marketing and all day-to-day operations for the three networks across all platforms that includes digital and social media. [23] [24]

Personal life

He is married to his longtime partner Adam Sanderson.[21]


  1. Steele, Emily (October 28, 2014). "Rich Ross Named President of the Discovery Channel". The New York Times. Retrieved October 28, 2014. 
  2. Rose, Lacey (October 28, 2014). "Shine America's Rich Ross to Depart". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved October 28, 2014. 
  3. "Disney's Rich Ross: Hollywood's first openly gay studio chairman". The Los Angeles Times. October 6, 2009. Retrieved October 29, 2014. 
  4. De Moraes, Lisa (January 8, 2015). "Rich Ross Takes Reins of Discovery Channel as President". Deadline. Retrieved January 5, 2015. 
  5. "Rich Ross Expands Discovery Communications' Portfolio". The Hollywood Reporter. August 13, 2015. Retrieved August 13, 2015. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Chmielewski, Dawn C. (June 21, 2009). "Rich Ross had a Mouse ear for 'tween' talent". Fordham University. Retrieved October 29, 2014. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 Woodruff, Jay (August 10, 2011). "Rich Ross Makes Moves (And Movies) At Disney". Fast Company (magazine). 
  8. Berrin, Danielle (October 8, 2009). "Disney’s first openly gay exec". Jewish Journal. Retrieved October 29, 2014. 
  9. Chapman, Mark (April 18, 2012). "Eastchester High To Stage 'Beauty and the Beast'". Daily Voice. Retrieved October 29, 2014. 
  10. "Do You Know Where Your Kids Are? Disney’s Rich Ross Probably Does". Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. March 4, 2009. Retrieved October 29, 2014. 
  11. "Walt Disney Investor Relations" (PDF). Retrieved March 12, 2012. 
  12. "All-Time Box Office". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved June 2, 2012. 
  13. "Rich Ross, Chairman, The Walt Disney Studios". The Walt Disney Studios. Retrieved March 12, 2012. 
  14. Kaufman, Amy (March 10, 2011). "Movie Projector: 'Battle: Los Angeles' will rule, 'Mars Needs Moms' will bomb". Los Angeles. Tribune Company. Retrieved March 13, 2011. 
  16. "John Carter". April 22, 2012. Retrieved April 23, 2012. 
  17. Ben Child (March 20, 2012). "John Carter set to lose Disney $200m". The Guardian. Retrieved April 13, 2012. 
  18. Georg Szalai (March 14, 2012). "Analyst: Disney's 'John Carter' Write-Down 'May Not Be as Bad as Feared'". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on April 9, 2012. Retrieved April 2, 2012. 
  19. Disney film boss Rich Ross resigns after John Carter flop, BBC News, April 20, 2012. Retrieved April 20, 2012.
  20. Chmielewski, Dawn (April 21, 2012). "Rich Ross' departure sends aftershocks at Disney". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 22, 2012. 
  21. 21.0 21.1 Rose, Lacey (December 18, 2013). "Shine's Rich Ross on One Year Back in TV -- and What Happened at Disney (Q&A)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved October 29, 2014. 

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