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Person to Watch

Herb Scannell

For The Heights

Published: Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Updated: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 22:02

Remember when Saturday mornings consisted of Nickelodeon’s Rugrats, Doug, and Spongebob Squarepants? Do episodes of Doctor Who or Dancing with the Stars stream on your Netflix account? Both the nation’s children and adults can thank Herb Scannell, BC ’79, for his contribution to television.

Currently the President of BBC Worldwide, America, Herb Scannell is in charge of managing BBC’s brand and business in the U.S., bringing quality British programming to American audiences. In an exclusive interview with World Screen Newsroom in January, Scannell said, “The BBC will always be the British Broadcasting Corporation and represent the good work of the UK. What our audience [the American audience] really likes is that British drama continually innovates—just the fact that there are so many series that come and go means that they are always coming up with something new and different.”

During Scannell’s time at BBC Worldwide, America, the popularity of shows such as Doctor Who, the science fiction show about a time traveller, and the 1860s drama Copper have skyrocketed. Doctor Who earned the title as the most downloaded show on iTunes in 2011, defeating Glee and Modern Family in the process.

Before entering the television industry, Scannell worked at WHN Radio after graduation. A passion for radio has defined Scannells life for years. In 2009, Scannell reflected about his time at and since college with writers at the Boston College Alumni Magazine. In response to the question, “What is one thing everyone should do while at BC?” Scannell responded, “Join an activity that you love. For me, that was managing the student radio station, WZBC. I’m proud that we helped usher in some new music from local artists and punk bands.” His love for radio still holds true today, as evident by his current position as Chairman of New York Public Radio, one of the numerous boards he serves on related to his passion for television and public affairs.

Scannell’s career in television began in 1981 after he joined The Movie Channel (which later merged with Showtime). He left the position he had attained as Director of Program Promotion at The Movie Channel/Showtime to join Viacom’s Nickelodeon in March 1988 as Director of Programming. He held other positions such as Vice President and helped develop Nick Jr. and Nicktoons before being named President of Nickelodeon and TV Land in 1996. Among the shows, Scannell helped launch during his time at the network was the widely-acclaimed Dora the Explorer. In 2003, he was named President of Nickelodeon Networks and Vice Chairman of MTV Networks.     
After resigning from the positions on Jan. 5, 2006, Scannell co-founded and served as CEO of Next New Networks with four other media executives in March 2007. A web-television company, the network was later acquired by YouTube/Google in 2011.

In the 2010 press release announcing Scannell’s current position, John Smith, CEO of BBC Worldwide commented, “Herb has a tremendous track record of success in developing and extending innovative brands…” If his success is any indicator so far, Scannell will continue to innovate and develop hit television shows for many Americans.


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