O’Neill, Hilary Grab Top Discovery Slots

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Discovery Networks U.S. Monday filled vacancies at the top of two of its cable networks, Discovery Health Channel and BBC America.

After serving eight months as interim general manager, Eileen O’Neill Monday was named GM for Discovery Health, while former Comedy Central executive vice president and GM Bill Hilary will take over the reins of BBC America, according to Discovery executives.

O’Neill, a 14-year Discovery Networks veteran, officially takes over from former GM Bob Reid, who left the company in February. O’Neill had served as VP of programming under Reid’s tenure, when she created such popular programs as Birthday Live and Babies.

O’Neill -- who will report to Clark Bunting, executive VP of Discovery U.S. Networks Group -- will oversee Discovery Health’s overall direction, including working with the network’s ad-sales, marketing and affiliate-sales departments to further develop the brand and create a unique environment for advertisers, operators and viewers.

“Eileen’s strength, insight and creativity have always been evident,” Discovery Networks president Billy Campbell said in a prepared statement. “With ratings and branding successes like Body Challenge and Birth Day Live! to her credit, Eileen has proven her ability to lead Discovery Health Channel to a new level of quality programming.”

Indeed, under O’Neill’s watch, the network averaged a 0.3 primetime household rating during the third quarter of 2004, up 50% compared with the same period last year.

Hilary will lead 40 million-subscriber BBC America, a joint venture between Discovery and the British Broadcasting Corp., taking over for acting chief operating officer Jo Petherbridge, who took that post in April when former COO Paul Lee left to head ABC Family.

Hilary, the former BBC executive, is now charged with all development and operations of BBC America, including BBCAmerica.com (www.bbcamerica.com) and BBC America On Demand.

Hilary left Comedy Central in June after spending four years at the network, developing such series as Chappelle's Show, Crank Yankers, Insomniac and Reno 911.

He inherits a network that has struggled on the ratings front: BBC America’s third-quarter primetime household ratings were down 50% to a 0.1 compared with the same period last year.

“I am thrilled to be joining the BBC America team and to have the opportunity to drive BBC America to the next level,” Hilary said in a prepared statement.

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