John S. Hendricks is the founder of Discovery Communications, the world’s #1 nonfiction media company, and serves as Executive Chairman. Hendricks created Discovery Channel in 1985 as the first cable network in the United States designed to provide high-quality documentary programming enabling people to explore their world and satisfy their curiosity. He has been the driving force behind Discovery’s dramatic growth, including its expansion to current global operations in 218 countries and territories with more than 1.8 billion cumulative subscribers.
He has been honored with a Primetime Emmy Award and with the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences highest honor, the Governors Award, for conceiving the TLC series Great Books. The Ark Trust named him a recipient of the Genesis Award for lifetime achievement for his efforts in raising awareness around the globe about animal issues. Hendricks has also been recognized as the first corporate leader to receive the National Education Association’s Friend of Education award for “innovations in education and technology and greatly expanding educational opportunity for America’s schoolchildren.”
Hendricks is Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Discovery Channel Global Education Partnership, a nonprofit organization dedicated to using the power of television to improve lives in underserved areas around the world. He holds a B.A. in history and an honorary doctorate from the University of Alabama, Huntsville.
About A Curious Discovery: An Entrepreneur’s Story
In 1984, Hendricks had $75,000 of debt on his wife’s American Express card and took all but $511 out of his family’s bank account to fund an audacious idea for a cable channel that features science and education programming.
A blend of memoir, business guide, media history and adventure, Hendricks’ story is proof that entrepreneurship is a socially approved form of gambling. Discovery Communications is now a near-ubiquitous media shark, with shows such as Mythbusters, Jon & Kate Plus 8, Planet Earth, and Trading Spaces. Hendricks built an empire out of his college fundraising experience, charm, and enviable prescience, in spite of his lack of real media experience. He boasts that he saw it all coming: DVR, Internet television, and e-books.
Hendricks’ confidence and delusional optimism are absolutely contagious. It would be great if, as he claims, Discovery’s educational program is the key to solving a host of problems, from terrorism in the U.S. to poverty in Africa. Hendricks has proved his willingness to go all in. Maybe we all need a little bit of his kind of crazy to make our dreams reality.