Chief Programming Executive and General Manager, General Audience Programming
Beth Hoppe is Chief Programming Executive and General Manager, General Audience Programming at PBS. In this role, she oversees all PBS general audience primetime programming, fundraising programming, and PBS Plus, a package of fully funded programs for stations' use in their weekend schedules. She is responsible for creating and implementing PBS’ primetime content strategy, building on PBS’ series and commissioning new programming working with producers, partners, and funding sources.
Ms. Hoppe joined PBS in 2011 as Vice President, General Audience Programming. Over the last year she has shepherded some timely documentaries including STEVE JOBS – One Last Thing (Pioneer Productions), TITANIC with Len Goodman (BBCWW and 360 Productions), and CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS - Three Men Go to War (Crossing the Line Productions). Ms. Hoppe has curated PBS’ science and history pipeline which includes “Exploration Wednesdays” with new episodes of NATURE (WNET), NOVA, and NOVA ScienceNOW (WGBH), in addition to the partnership between Kunhardt Magee Productions and AOL that will bring MAKERS – Women Who Made America to PBS.
Ms. Hoppe joined PBS from Discovery Studios. Prior to that she was President and CEO of Optomen Productions (USA), a New York-based television production company known for science, reality and factual programming. With Beth in the role of Executive Producer, Optomen produced numerous programs and series for Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, Travel Channel, PBS, and the Food Network. Productions included Monsters Inside Me for Animal Planet, Worst Cooks in America for Food Network, Mars: The Quest for Life and Are We Alone? for Discovery and Science Channel and Most Evil for Discovery and I.D.
Before joining Optomen, Ms. Hoppe spent many years in public television. She was Thirteen/WNET’s Executive Producer of PBS’s 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 with Bill Cosby, and Avalanche! Before NOVA, she directed the Ten O’Clock News. Beth 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 is serving her third term on the Steering Committee of the World Congress of Science and Factual Producers, appeared on panels at RealScreen and the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival, served as a jury member for the Japan Prize and has been a judge of 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.
Senior Vice President, Pledge Strategy and Special Projects
As Senior Vice President, Pledge Strategy and Special Projects, John Wilson leads short and long range planning around PBS’ Pledge programming strategy and special projects. Mr. Wilson works with the General Audience and Children’s Programming teams, Fundraising Programming, Research, Promotion, Interactive and PBS Distribution to develop new concepts to support PBS member stations.
Previously, Mr. Wilson was Senior Vice President and Chief TV Programming Executive, overseeing all PBS television programming services, including programming and scheduling of the National Program Service, fundraising programming, and PBS Plus.
Mr. Wilson is based at PBS headquarters in Arlington, Virginia. He joined PBS in 1994 as Director of Program Scheduling. In 2005, Mr. Wilson participated in the launch of PBS Kids Sprout, a 24-hour digital cable channel and video-on-demand service, bringing together some of the best-known and well-respected shows in children's programming. His television career began at PBS member station KAET in Phoenix, where he held a variety of positions in production and programming, including Program Director.
Programming Executive and Vice President, Content and Business Affairs
Mike Kelley is Programming Executive and Vice President, Content and Business Affairs at PBS charged with integrating business strategy and planning into PBS’ General Audience Programming. Previously, Mr. Kelly was Vice President, Strategy and Business Affairs.
Mr. Kelly joined PBS in 2008 as Vice President, Content Strategy and Operations and developed and implemented corporate strategy, tracked the overall performance of the organization, led special projects and managed the General Audience content budget.
Prior to joining PBS, Mr. Kelley was a management consultant at Eagle Hill Consulting and PricewaterhouseCoopers, focusing on media and telecommunications clients. He also spent time at AOL working in corporate strategy and product development.
Donald H. Thoms
Vice President, General Audience Programming
Donald Thoms is Vice President of General Audience Programming at PBS and is oversees editorial development and production for programs in the Arts, Performance, Drama, Lifestyle and Cultural areas. Donald also works with Independent producers, and programs and projects surrounding diversity. He also leads Talent Development.
Prior to re-joining PBS, Mr. Thoms, who is a seasoned broadcaster and executive, was President of ThomsMediaGroup LLC, a multimedia and multiplatform consulting organization. In this role, Mr. Thoms worked with clients, both commercial, cable and public television in the areas of television production, acquisition, program development, on line content, talent development, and casting.
Mr. Thoms is a multi-award winning producer, director, journalist, and executive producer. He has overseen the production of thousand of hours of television content and managed staffs and major budgets for Maryland Public Television, PBS and Discovery Communications, where he helped launch Discovery Health Channel. Mr. Thoms has also worked in the areas of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs during his entire career. Mr. Thoms can be seen throughout the year as an on-air talent for public television’s fundraising drives.
Mr. Thoms has served as Vice President of Talent Development and Diversity for Discovery Communications. In this role, Mr. Thoms managed the efforts to locate and cast on-screen talent for the networks of Discovery, including developing diverse talents for on air.
He joined Discovery in 1999 as Head of Production for the newly launched Discovery Health Channel and oversaw the day-to-day operations of the production team and was responsible for a wide array of original and co-productions. In addition, he steered the strategic planning, management, and execution of all content, as well as managed parallel production plans among television, online, new media, and other businesses.
During Mr. Thoms’ time with Discovery Health Channel, the network saw double-digit growth in ad sales revenue and ratings and many of the network’s most successful projects, both daytime and primetime, were grown under Thoms: National Body Challenge, Dr. G: Medical Examiner, You: The Owner's Manual, Mystery Diagnosis, Lifeline, Super Surgery, and Birthday Live!
Before joining Discovery, Mr. Thoms served as Vice President of Program Management at PBS where he was responsible for overseeing the packaging and delivery of PBS’ programming services. In addition, he developed and evaluated programming projects, served as Special Projects executive, as well as helped to develop on-air promotional initiatives for key programs. While at PBS, Mr. Thoms was the face and contact for independent and minority producers coming to public television. He created PBS’ INDEPENDENT LENS, still in production, which features the works of independent filmmakers. While at PBS, Mr. Thoms served as its EEO officer.
For many years Mr. Thoms produced, directed and oversaw regional television production and Community Outreach at Maryland Public Television (MPT) and was named one of the 25 people who had the most impact on MPT’s history and success.
A native of Baltimore, Mr. Thoms serves as a Board of Trustee for CENTERSTAGE, the state theater of Maryland, and is the former President of CINE, the 53-year-old organization that recognizes excellence in film and video making.
Senior Director, General Audience Programming
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 Senior Director, General Audience Programming.
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.
Director, Program Development, Independent Film & PBS Plus
Kathryn Lo is responsible for program evaluation, development and acquisitions. She curates Independent Lens, the weekly Emmy® Award-winning anthology showcase for independent film produced in collaboration with the Independent Television Service (ITVS). Ms. Lo also oversees PBS Plus, a syndicated programming service of specials and series in a variety of genres.
Ms. Lo supports the film and documentary community and PBS member stations as they develop and submit programs for consideration. In addition, she works alongside the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and member station WGBH to identify and nurture new talent for public media during the annual CPB/PBS Producers Academy. Before coming to PBS, Ms. Lo worked as a journalist in print and radio, and served as program director for a public radio station in Los Angeles. Her previous work includes co-producing two seasons of a short documentary series which aired on PBS.
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.