- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 15, 2005

Sarita Smith has been promoted to senior vice president of research and planning for Discovery Networks US, a unit of Discovery Communications Inc.

Silver Spring-based Discovery Networks US operates and manages popular television networks the Learning Channel (TLC), Animal Planet, Discovery Channel and many others. The company also is responsible for distributing British Broadcasting Corp.’s BBC America.

Mrs. Smith, who joined Discovery in 1993 as a manager in the research department, will be responsible for the marketing, supporting programming, communications and sales divisions and overseeing research.

“I am basically in charge of all the programing and marketing research done for our networks,” Mrs. Smith said.

Programming research, or figuring out which shows consumers are watching and why, is one of Mrs. Smith’s biggest challenges.

“The biggest thing is figuring out how to get ahead of the curve,” she said.

She does that by monitoring Nielsen ratings, which are audience estimates for broadcast and cable networks, and studying which shows are most popular among certain age groups.

“We’re really trying to get the voice of the consumer heard and fine-tune our programs to what they want to see,” Mrs. Smith said.

Trend work, or monitoring what consumers are buying and watching, is one of the ways she is able to fine-tune programming.

“Trend work helps you really understand how the consumer lives. It’s more specific to what is happening. It’s keeping your finger on the pulse of things you see over and over again,” she said.

Billy Campbell, president of Discovery Networks US, said Mrs. Smith was the most obvious person for the job because of her experience with the network and other organizations.

Before joining Discovery, Mrs. Smith served as a research manager at the National Geographic Society, where her primary focus was publishing Traveler magazine and large-format books.

She lives in Bethesda with her husband and two children.

Melissa Brosk

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