Programming

TLC Moving to L.A.

Discovery Communications Moving Cable Network’s Operations from Silver Spring, Md., to Los Angeles Under New President/GM Shapiro-Mathes 9/10/2007 10:30:00 AM Eastern

Discovery Communications is relocating operations for its TLC channel to Los Angeles, employees were told Monday. Some 50 staffers from the network’s programming, production, marketing, research and communications teams will be affected.

By Jan. 1, about one-third of the employees will move from Discovery headquarters in Silver Spring, Md., to Los Angeles, another third will leave the company and the final third will be reassigned to other cable networks in Discovery’s portfolio, such as flagship Discovery Channel and new environmental network Planet Green.

The move -- marking the first time any Discovery cable network will be headquartered in Los Angeles -- comes after the network’s new president and general manager, Angela Shapiro-Mathes, took the helm July 1. The industry veteran, formerly chief of Fox TV Studios and ABC Family, has always been based in Los Angeles and has begun hiring her senior team there, so it was somewhat expected that at least some of the Silver Spring-based employees would be asked to move.

When she was named, it was thought that TLC would operate both from Silver Spring and Los Angeles. But after reviewing the network for two months, Shapiro-Mathes decided that moving its entire team to the West Coast made the most sense creatively and financially, she said in an e-mail to staffers.

“My objective was to ensure that we have the strongest organization possible that meets David Zaslav’s direction of tapping more aggressively into the creative community in Los Angeles and energizing the TLC brand,” she said in the note.

“Locating the entire team in Los Angeles will have many benefits,” she added. “We will fully develop our industry contacts and relationships. We will be top-of-mind with the most important producers as they seek partners and opportunities. Simply put, to truly exploit the creative and development population based in Los Angeles, geography matters, and TLC needs to be on the ground.”

Shapiro-Mathes was in Silver Spring Monday, holding individual meetings with employees to discuss their fates. Some had been approached in the weeks leading up to Monday’s meetings as to whether they would be open to making a move.

While the network’s sales team -- one centralized with other Discovery cable networks -- will remain in New York, the others will relocate in the new year, after a transition period that will end Dec. 31.

TLC was the only major Discovery network not affected in April, when then-new president and CEO David Zaslav instituted a sweeping reorganization announced earlier in the year. That was because later in April, at the company’s upfront, it was announced that Shapiro-Mathes would be coming in July. The thought was that any major changes should be made after she joined July 1 and sized up the network for herself.

After that, she swiftly hand-picked the network’s most senior staffers and installed them in posts in Los Angeles. They included co-senior vice president of programming Brant Pinvidic, a former senior development executive from Los Angeles-based production company GRB Entertainment, who is now overseeing TLC’s primetime programming, as well as Regina DiMartino, Shapiro-Mathes’ right-hand woman in marketing at Fox, now executive VP of marketing for the network.

TLC has been strong for Discovery from a ratings standpoint for the past year-and-a-half, growing in audience delivery for the past 18 months to an average of 904,000 total viewers during August. Still, executives inside and outside of the company expect Shapiro-Mathes to tweak its lifestyle fare.

In a similar staffing move last month, Lifetime Television chief Andrea Wong -- herself based in Los Angeles at ABC before being named to head the New York-based women’s network -- said she planned to move its entire marketing and scheduling departments to the West Coast.

Lifetime’s entertainment team, under Susanne Daniels, is already based in Los Angeles, and the company just hired former Fox/The WB marketing executives Bob Bibb and Lewis Goldstein to fill its long-vacant chief marketing role.

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