Names and Faces
Chief Programming Executive and General Manager, General Audience Programming
Beth Hoppe is Chief Programming Executive and General Manager, General Audience Programming at PBS. In that role she has overseen PBS’ growth from the 12th most watched in primetime to the 5th most watched among all broadcast and cable networks.
In just over three years in this position, Ms. Hoppe has overseen the return to PBS of original American drama with Mercy Street, a civil war medical drama set in Alexandria, VA; entered a co-production agreement with the BBC, which has generated science and natural history specials for both networks including Big Blue Live; and helped position PBS as the home for independent film with multi-platform projects like the Oscar-nominated Last Days in Vietnam from American Experience and The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution from Independent Lens.
Ms. Hoppe oversees the entire primetime content strategy and budget and works closely with the Executive Producers of PBS’ award winning series Frontline, Masterpiece, NOVA, Nature, American Masters and Great Performances. She has brought numerous new series and specials across multiple genres to PBS including history programs Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Genealogy Roadshow and In Their Own Words; and dramas Call the Midwife, Last Tango in Halifax and Vicious. Working with Ken Burns, Ms. Hoppe developed a multi-platform “epic binge” scheduling strategy, which resulted in The Roosevelts: An Intimate History being the most watched factual program on PBS since The Civil War more than two decades ago. She has also brought timely specials and events to PBS including a block of programming commemorating the anniversary of the assassination of JFK, a special on The March on Washington, and Year In Space, a partnership with TIME magazine, scheduled to coincide with Mark Kelly’s return from the International Space Station. Before taking on the top programming job at PBS, Ms. Hoppe spent just over a year as Vice President, Programming, during which she oversaw all natural history, science, history, and news and public affairs programming.
Before PBS, Ms. Hoppe spent more than eight years on the commercial side of the business. She came to PBS from Discovery where she oversaw Curiosity and developed and produced science projects for Discovery Studios. Prior to Discovery, Ms. Hoppe was President and CEO of Optomen Productions (USA), a Soho, New York-based television production company known for science, reality and factual programming, which she started from the ground up. Under her leadership, Optomen produced numerous successful programs and series for Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, Travel Channel, PBS and the Food Network. Productions she created which went on to be long running series included Monsters Inside Me for Animal Planet, Most Evil for Discovery and I.D, Worst Cooks in America for Food Network, and Mysteries of the Museum for Travel Channel. Additional series and specials included the Emmy-nominated Evolve for The History Channel, Mars: The Quest for Life and Are We Alone? for Discovery and Science Channel, Can Animals Predict Disaster? for PBS’ Nature strand, and Gangland Graveyard for Secrets of the Dead.
Prior to joining Optomen, Ms. Hoppe was Thirteen/WNET’s Executive Producer of PBS’ ground-breaking Frontier House and Colonial House, both of which were nominated for primetime Emmys, and, while Director of Science Programs at Thirteen/WNET, two projects, DNA and The Secret Life of the Brain, won the Emmy award for Outstanding Science Program. Working with Channel 4 in the UK, she created the long running strand Secrets of the Dead, and oversaw numerous productions and co-productions including 1900 House, Savage Seas, Savage Earth, Savage Planet and Innovation. At WGBH she was series producer of NOVA, and directed and produced several episodes of the series, including Great Moments from NOVA, and Avalanche! Before NOVA, Ms. Hoppe directed the Ten O’Clock News. She got her start in production at New Hampshire Public Television where she directed and edited New Hampshire Journal, floor managed Granite State Challenge, and ran camera for many productions including UNH Wildcat Hockey.
Ms. Hoppe serves on the Board of the World Congress of Science and Factual Producers, and has frequently participated in panels there and at RealScreen, IDA, the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival, the New York Television Festival, and other industry events. She has served as a jury member for the Japan Prize and has been a judge for the News and Documentary Emmy Awards. She also has served on National Science Foundation grant review panels and has privately reviewed grants for other organizations, including the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.
Senior Vice President, Programming & Business Affairs
Michael Kelley is Senior Vice President, Programming & Business Affairs at PBS. In this role, he is responsible for developing and integrating content and business strategy across General Audience and Children’s Programming. Mr. Kelley manages Business Affairs, which negotiates all PBS production agreements; Production Management, which analyzes production schedules and budgets; and Content Services, which manages program delivery and packaging.
Mr. Kelley joined PBS in 2008 as Vice President, Strategy and Operations. In this role, he developed and implemented corporate strategy, tracked the overall performance of the organization, and managed the PBS content budget. He then served as Vice President, Strategy and Business Affairs, adding oversight of Business Affairs and Production Management to his portfolio.
Prior to joining PBS, Mr. Kelley was a management consultant at Eagle Hill Consulting and PricewaterhouseCoopers, working with media and telecommunications clients. He also spent time at AOL working in corporate strategy and product development.
Vice President, Programming and Development
Bill Gardner oversees the acquisition, development and production of historical, cultural, current and world events, natural history and science programming for the PBS Primetime schedule as Vice President, Programming and Development.
Before joining PBS, Mr. Gardner was executive producer at Discovery Studios, where he developed projects in the reality, lifestyle and science genres. He also oversaw national productions including Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl and served as show runner on Science Channel’s Human Nature with Dan Riskin.
Prior to Discovery, he spent over a decade in the independent production world as director, producer, writer and show runner on programs for multiple networks, including Digging for the Truth on the History Channel, Treasure Quest and Solving History on Discovery, CNN Presents and Explorer for National Geographic.
Mr. Gardner has produced in over 30 countries, including spending two months embedded with US Special Forces investigating the looting of the Baghdad museum. During this time he was also the first Westerner allowed to film inside the holy Shi’i Shrines of Hussein and Abbas in Karbala.
Before entering television, Mr. Gardner performed anthropological fieldwork among Arab expatriates in the United States, in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon and among Muslim Sufi mystics in Marrakech, Morocco, as well as in the world of crack cocaine addiction in the US Virgin Islands. He is a member of the board of CINE and has a Masters Degree in cultural anthropology.
Vice President, News & Public Affairs
As Vice President, News & Public Affairs for PBS, Marie Nelson is responsible for collaborating with executive producers of acclaimed PBS news and public affairs series, as well as independent producers, to develop and direct innovative approaches to engage audiences in current events across these programs and platforms.
Ms. Nelson is a seasoned content developer with experience in public media and other broadcast and cable organizations. Prior to PBS, she served as executive producer of national programs at PBS member station WGBH. At WGBH, she oversaw the production of AMERICA BY THE NUMBERS, an eight-part documentary series that explores the impact of America’s changing demographics.
Prior to WGBH, Ms. Nelson was the acting vice president of news & original programming for BET Networks, where she oversaw a range of cross-platform projects, including Battleground 2012, a yearlong politics initiative. She also served as the founding executive producer for NPR’s “Tell Me More” and as a producer for “Nightline” with Ted Koppel and “World News Tonight” at ABC News. Nelson has also served in public affairs and international development roles with the U.S. Department of State, the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition and Africare.
Vice President, Children’s Programming
As Vice President of Children's Programming for PBS, Linda Simensky collaborates with producers, co-production partners and distributors throughout development, production, post-production and broadcast for existing and new series including Curious George, Super Why!, Dinosaur Train, The Cat in the Hat Knows A Lot About That, Sid the Science Kid, Martha Speaks, WordGirl, The Electric Company, and Wild Kratts.
Prior to joining PBS, Ms. Simensky was Senior Vice President of Original Animation for Cartoon Network, where she oversaw the development and series production of The Powerpuff Girls, Dexter's Laboratory, Samurai Jack, Courage the Cowardly Dog and other major projects.
Ms. Simensky began her career with a nine-year tenure at Nickelodeon, where she helped build the animation department and launch such popular series as Rugrats, Doug and The Ren & Stimpy Show.
She is a past-president of ASIFA-East, and the founder of New York chapter of Women in Animation. She has lectured at numerous colleges and animation festivals, and has taught courses in animation at the School of Visual Arts in New York. She has written for numerous animation publications and has had several essays published in books including "Nickelodeon Nation" and "The Children's Television Community."
Ms. Simensky holds a BA in Communications & History from the University of Pennsylvania and an MA in Media Ecology from New York University.