JB Perrette ES'89
A Journey of Discovery
Over the span of more than 25 years, JB Perrette ES'89’s career journey has not progressed along a linear path, but it does have a common theme. Starting out as an international financial analyst and rising to his current role as President and CEO of Discovery Networks International, JB’s life has been shaped by a key lesson learned as a student with School Year Abroad (SYA) in Spain. During his time in Barcelona, JB learned to “be comfortable with the uncomfortable” as he struggled to adopt a new language, new food and new life with a foreign family. JB views that formative experience as crucial to his success today.
“I believe adaptation, the need to embrace change, and enjoy that feeling of discomfort helped me tremendously throughout my career,” he says. “I learned this at SYA, and it is a critical skill in doing business in the world today.”
Now based in London while constantly globetrotting to meet Discovery’s business partners and 6,000 employees around the world, JB encourages people to travel to foreign countries where they don’t know the language, culture or people, and confront that challenge as a learning opportunity. He notes a stark difference between people who embrace change and those who shy away.
Early in his career, JB moved from Credit Suisse to NBC, working as vice president and chief financial officer of business development, then as senior vice president of new media and strategy. He parlayed this role into president of digital distribution until 2011, when he moved to Discovery Communications, first as chief digital officer then, in January 2014, as president of the international business, which now accounts for more than half of the company’s revenue. Best known for its flagship network, Discovery is a media empire founded on the belief that powerful content could ignite people’s curiosity and open windows to the world. The company has grown and diversified in its content and business strategy. From the launch of Discovery Channel in the United States over 30 years ago, the company now has an average of 10 channels in 220 markets with content and brands that range from factual to lifestyle to kids and general entertainment to sports, that is available to consume across all screens – on payTV, over the air, and on the go.
In this revolutionary age for television, with companies like Netflix, Amazon, Facebook and YouTube disrupting a global video ecosystem that now includes 7 billion video-enabled consumer electronics devices, JB credits his ability to maneuver in this new territory to his time with SYA.
“Discovery is constantly innovating the way we do business and how we serve the needs of consumers. In the current environment of massive change, we have to push ourselves to get comfortable being uncomfortable. That’s a concept that SYA does a really good job forcing upon you.”
Ultimately, JB notes, his success at Discovery comes from the day-by-day strategy employed to respond to the incredibly rich, democratized video market of today, in which consumers face nearly an infinite number of viewing options.
“It’s not dissimilar to when we first arrived in Spain. What is this language? Who is this host family? You have to adapt, and you change day by day and then you realize, ‘Hey, I can figure this out.’ Einstein said it best: ‘It’s not that I’m much smarter, I just spend more time with the problem.’”
JB is the president and CEO of Discovery Networks International. He attended SYA as a senior from Deerfield Academy and received his bachelor's from Hamilton College.
Learn more about Discovery Communications.
See the video of JB’s SYA Global Thinker talk in London, February 2016