Saying TLC needed a change in its “creative and organizational direction,” Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav last Friday removed Angela Shapiro-Mathes as network president and general manager and replaced her with Discovery veteran Eileen O’Neill.
O’Neill moves over to 90-plus million subscriber TLC from 50 million-subscriber Planet Green, the recently launched environmentally themed channel. Clark Bunting, another longtime Discovery executive and president of Discovery’s Emerging Networks Group, will oversee Planet Green until a permanent replacement is named.
“I’m getting a great opportunity to push a great network forward — there are some good content brand areas that our audiences are very familiar with and there are some opportunities,” O’Neill said in an interview Friday. She previously ran TLC, on an interim basis, in 2007, after David Abraham left and before Shapiro-Mathes came on board. At the time, O’Neill was also running Discovery Health before taking the helm at Planet Green.
Zaslav, in the statement announcing the change, called O’Neill “a proven cable programmer, and has guided one of the most successful network introductions in Planet Green. Her exceptional reputation and understanding of TLC’s passionate audience makes Eileen the perfect executive to lead TLC.”
He also said TLC’s “massive reach, brand awareness and a foothold in popular programming genres including lifestyle, fashion, real estate and families” makes it “well positioned for the future.”
Shapiro-Mathes, the former head of ABC Family and Fox Television Studios, took over TLC in July 2007 and later moved most of the channel’s operations to Los Angeles.
Under Shapiro-Mathes, TLC acquired high-profile franchises such as the Miss America pageant and oversaw the return of former Trading Spaces host Paige Davis to the former staple TLC series.
But Mathes was unable to improve TLC’s primetime ratings. The network’s 0.7 primetime household rating was down 13% from the previous year. O’Neill said improving ratings is her main focus.
“My goal is to increase ratings, so I’ll be looking at scheduling and the pipeline and marketing — everything that impacts our marketing and communications,” she said.
Zaslav said of Mathes: “My thanks to Angela for her hard work, leadership and passion over the past year. She has diversified TLC’s programming mix and increased the network’s development presence in Los Angeles.”
O’Neill takes over TLC just one month after overseeing the launch of Planet Green, a conversion of the former Discovery Home. It is not yet rated by Nielsen Media Research.