Discovery Promotes Three Top Programmers
O'Neill put in charge of Discovery Channel, TLC
By Jon Lafayette -- Broadcasting & Cable, 1/12/2011 4:27:41 PM
Eileen O'Neill, who had led TLC, was named Group President for Discovery and TLC Networks, putting the company's two biggest networks into a single business unit.
Clark Bunting continues as president and general manager of Discovery Channel reporting to O'Neill, who will soon name a new general manager for TLC, the company said. Until a new GM is named, TLC COO Edward Sabin will be the network's acting GM.
Animal Planet chief Marjorie Kaplan was named president for Animal Planet and Science Channel. Kaplan will continue to run Animal Planet and Debbie Myers, general manager of Science Channel will report to Kaplan.
Henry Schleiff, now general manager of Investigation Discovery and Military Network, will be in charge of the Emerging Networks group, including Planet Green and FitTV. Laura Michalchyshyn, president and general manager of Planet Green and FitTV will report to Schleiff.
The reorganization reduces the number of network executives reporting to CEO David Zaslav.
"Over the past several weeks, I have evaluated how we can develop the most dynamic creative processes, the most innovative leaders and the most effective organizational structure to encourage risk taking across our programming and marketing," Zaslav said in a memo to staff Wednesday. "This core objective requires the very best creative leadership at the helm of our U.S. brands, so I am expanding the roles for three of our top creative executives. "
Discovery's new joint venture networks, the Oprah Winfrey Network and The Hub, continue to report to COO Peter Liguori.
The entire memo can be read below:
PROMOTIONS AND RESTRUCTURING AT U.S. NETWORKS: A MESSAGE FROM DAVID ZASLAV
As we kick off 2011, making Discovery the most creative media company in the world continues to be my top aspiration, and our strategic goal remains the same: moving Discovery from a company with the strongest distribution in the world to a company with the best creative content as well.
Over the past several weeks, I have evaluated how we can develop the most dynamic creative processes, the most innovative leaders and the most effective organizational structure to encourage risk taking across our programming and marketing.
This core objective requires the very best creative leadership at the helm of our U.S. brands, so I am expanding the roles for three of our top creative executives.
First, I am proud to announce that Eileen O'Neill has been named Group President, Discovery and TLC Networks, which will merge our two domestic flagship channels into one new business unit. Clark Bunting will continue to lead Discovery Channel as President and General Manager, reporting to Eileen. In addition, Eileen will soon name a General Manager of TLC to oversee day-to-day programming and production. Edward Sabin, TLC's Chief Operating Officer, will serve as acting General Manager while a full search is conducted.
Secondly, Marjorie Kaplan will become President, Animal Planet and Science Networks, overseeing this new business unit. Debbie Myers, General Manager of Science Channel, will now report directly to Marjorie.
Finally, Henry Schleiff, President and General Manager of ID and Military Networks, will assume new responsibilities for the Emerging Networks, Planet Green and FitTV, with Laura Michalchyshyn, President and General Manager reporting to him, while the company determines the strongest creative strategy for these networks to realize their full growth potential in the future.
Eileen's 21-year track record at Discovery Communications is nothing short of astounding. From Discovery Health Channel to Planet Green to TLC, each network she led has been infused with creativity, innovation and content that breaks through the clutter of the television landscape.
Her big, bold swings - Jon & Kate Plus 8, 19 Kids and Counting, Sister Wives, and Sarah Palin's Alaska - in addition to beloved series Cake Boss and Say Yes to the Dress, have yielded strong ratings, brand awareness and pop culture buzz. At every network, Eileen has made the programming, processes and people demonstrably better. In less than three years, she has transformed TLC and driven the network into the top 10 for women with an incredible 31 series averaging more than 1 million viewers in 2010.
At Discovery Channel, there is a solid foundation to build upon and grow. Over the past year, Clark had 22 series averaging more than 1 million viewers and guided Discovery Channel to record ratings for Shark Week and the epic series Life. Deadliest Catch marked its strongest season ever and the way Clark and the team handled Captain Phil's passing made us all proud. New series Dual Survival, Auction Kings and Man, Woman, Wild have proven their strength, and Gold Rush: Alaska is the number one new series on Friday nights.
I am confident Eileen and the team will focus on making our biggest assets even stronger and more successful, while operating at their full creative potential.
Since taking charge at Animal Planet in 2007, Marjorie has dramatically repositioned the network into a more adult focused, competitive brand and created multiple successful new franchise shows including the two highest rated series in the network's history, Whale Wars and River Monsters. Marjorie is a proven creative and business leader and her stewardship has resulted in 28% growth since the rebrand and Animal Planet finished 2010 with the best yearly performance ever among key demos while also ranking in top 30 among cable.
At Science Channel, Debbie has launched more than 20 new series and delivered eight straight quarters of viewership growth, with the annual Punkin Chunkin special delivering the highest HH rating in channel history. 2010 was a year of record revenue and ratings for Science Channel and Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman was the network's highest-rated series ever.
This new structure allows Debbie and Science Channel to emerge a bit from the shadows of Discovery Channel. Marjorie and Debbie are both extremely entrepreneurial and aggressive in brand strategy, and this pairing will stimulate even more original thinking.
For our Emerging Networks Group, we want to infuse these high potential properties with the most passionate and seasoned leadership team. Henry has catapulted ID into a top 25 network in cable on many nights with hit series like On The Case with Paula Zahn, which earned the channel its first ever 1HH rating on Sunday night. In her nearly two years with Discovery, Laura has worked to broaden the scope of Planet Green and strengthen the network with original programming. Henry's proven success with ID, paired with Laura's remarkable energy and enthusiasm, will help us realize the next phase of growth for our beachfront real estate.
The goal with these strategic changes is to have all levels of the organization infused with more creativity, innovation and risk taking, and to create a leadership structure that gives our top talent the authority to push our brands to their fullest. In addition, I believe this structure will streamline decision making and boost creative collaboration. Under these executives' strong guidance, I have no doubt that the best is yet to come for our U.S. portfolio.
President and CEO
I have been dealing with Discovery Channel and all its' offspring since the initial launch. It is because of their policies (financial, creative etc.) that the technical quality of documentary/reality programs in the marketplace today are atrocious. As I've always said, the more mistakes in a documentary, the better odds it's Discovery Channel.
John Doe - 1/16/2011 6:17:26 PM EST
@Discovery Employee: Your comments are really insightful and contain great inside information. I wish people would share thoughts about their companies and leaders the way you did. It's refreshing, especially for people doing research on who/what companies to work for. Thanks.
jeff - 1/14/2011 4:21:51 PM EST
In the last four years, I've had four, (yes, that's four), different General Managers at Discovery Channel. David Zaslav fires them all. The last one, Clark Bunting was by far the worst. Poor Clark doesn't have an original idea in his head, preferring to hide at the gym "perfecting" his karate "expertise". The biggest mistake Clark made was to surround himself with even bigger idiots who directly reported to him. These SVPs and EVPs single handedly drained all the creative energy and vision out of the network - while Clark sat in his office whining and berating the employees who were trying to save Discovery and himself. I've never worked for a more deceitful and mean spirited person, who was so uninspiring to work for that I'm surprised he lasted the full year. Clark didn't even stay and help when a crazed killer entered the Discovery building last spring. Instead Clark abandoned his team and drove away - WITHOUT TAKING ANYONE WITH HIM! It's Discovery’s dirty secret that Clark Bunting was the only person who did this. But that's Clark, our fearless leader.
I want to welcome Eileen O’Neill to Discovery Channel with open arms. Not only because she is a genius and a fearless programmer and surrounds herself with sharp top management, but because she is not Clark Bunting.
Discovery Employee - 1/13/2011 9:47:56 AM EST
Both Myers and Michalchysyn are cupcakes. Not much happening there. Sell Fit and Green to someone who can make something out of it. Get rid of the mushrooms in the company (ep's) who have been there since time began. Most of these folks don't have a hip, cool bone in their body. They get rid of folks who do.
Craigy Ferg - 1/12/2011 10:40:22 PM EST
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