NEW YORK — Ted Koppel is leaving Discovery Channel six months before his contract was due to expire in May, citing the network's waning interest in the kind of long-form news programs he was producing.
His departure was announced Tuesday by the channel, which called it an "amicable agreement."
After a 42-year career at ABC, the longtime newsman joined Discovery amid much fanfare in 2006 after being aggressively pursued by executives there. But less than a year after he came aboard, management of Discovery Communications, the network's parent company, changed.
Since then, "it's been clear that we and they have different products in mind and different goals in minds," Koppel said.
"The Discovery people were absolutely honorable about it and we were able to produce exactly what we wanted to do," he added. "But it's quite clear that the kind of programs we've produced is inconsistent with the kind of programming that Discovery does. They're just not interested in news programming."
John Ford, president and general manager of Discovery Channel, expressed admiration for Koppel but said that the network is seeking to renew its focus on science, adventure and environmental programming that can air repeatedly.
"Our emphasis is on long-running series that are both global and timeless, so they're built to last over a period of time," he said. "What the Koppel Group has been doing so well for us is programming from the point of view of someone in the U.S. and timely, very contemporary and relevant. But it also means a short shelf life, if you will. So really we want to emphasize more of what we do best."
Koppel plans to continue doing commentary and analysis for NPR and BBC World News America but said that he has no other immediate professional plans. "For the first time in almost 50 years in the business, I'm going to take some time off with my wife," he said. "There is nothing out there that I'm looking at."
Koppel said he had no regrets about making the move to Discovery, where he produced 15 hours of programming on a range of topics, including a four-hour series on China and a documentary and town hall meeting called "Living With Cancer," inspired by his former executive producer Leroy Sievers, who died this summer after a three-year battle with cancer.
"We had a wonderful time," he said. "The simple fact of the matter is, the people who hired us left just about a year after we got there, and they had something different in mind than the new team, and that's nobody's fault. There's no finger-pointing here, no bitterness. We just simply do different things."