When Bill Goodwyn graduated from UNC Chapel Hill and took his first job out of college as a sales rep for Xerox, he never imagined he’d one day be one of the biggest power players in television today. It was a chance meeting with an executive recruiter that launched Goodwyn’s career in cable TV back in 1983 and, today, the Charlotte resident is CEO of Distribution and Discovery Education at Discovery Channel. An integral force behind hit shows like “The Deadliest Catch” and award-winning series “Planet Earth,” Goodwyn has taken on a relatively new endeavor: integrating digital learning into classrooms around the globe via Discovery Education. We talked with Goodwyn, who was recently inducted into the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame, about why digital learning can solve educational woes, what his favorite Discovery Channel programs are, and what the channel has up its sleeve for 2014.
What is it about the Discovery Channel that you think audiences love?When I got into TV out of college, there was a channel for music with MTV, ESPN, CNN, HBO. When I sat across from John Hendricks [founder of Discovery Channel] I really believed that TV can educate and inspire and bring the world to the home and consumers. [Discovery’s] tagline at the time was “explore your world.” I still believe that’s true today. That’s one of those brand definition and mission statements that will always be important to people’s lives.
Tell me about Discover Education.We’re seeing this shift in K-12 classrooms from this static print world to a more engaging digital world. When students come into classrooms they want to be engaged. We started providing supplemental content [to school districts around the world]—videos, interactives, lesson plans, virtual labs—to help teachers engage students and accelerate students’ achievements. We’ve taken digital content a step forward with digital textbooks. The cool thing is that it’s replacing printed textbooks with a digital solution. Not only does it engage the kids—kids are digital learners—but you can also personalize and adapt the content to different learning styles, for example.
Tell me about Mooresville’s use of Discovery’s digital learning technology. You mentioned they’re the poster children for digital learning.In Mooresville, there’s not a single printed textbook. Every kid has a Mac book. It’s creating a new learning environment. They’ve trained all of their instructors, and they have enrolled the parents and business community so they have a learning environment using technology to inspire, connect, and engage. Mooresville is a showplace of how to put together a digital learning space.
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What have been some of Discovery’s most important programs in terms of educating audiences?I think people remember “Planet Earth” as a spectacular series because you were able to see nature in a manner that you’ve never been able to see before. It’s timeless. A recent show called “The Presidents’ Gatekeepers” featured all of the chiefs of staff of the last eight presidents. It really opened up how important that role is to the President. Another show recently aired on the Challenger disaster and a show back in the late ‘80s called “Ivory Wars” on the dangers African elephants were facing because of the demand for ivory was outstanding.
What have been some of your favorite Discovery programs?“North America” was a fantastic series. “Planet Earth” will always be one of my favorites. “The Deadliest Catch,” I am an avid viewer of that. “HD Atlas” looked at wonderful countries all over the world. We were the first company to launch a full high-definition cable network. You got to see the beauty of the world up close in HD. HD really made content come alive.
What’s coming up in 2014 for Discovery Channel?We’re debuting a series called “The West,” produced by Robert Redford’s Sundance Productions. It chronicles the 40-year period in America just after the Civil War to just after the turn of the century.