Mary Ellen Iwata, TLC’s VP of development and special projects is moving to Home and Garden Television to take on the newly-created position of VP, development. Here, she talks to Kimberly Brown about the move.
Q: What’s going on at TLC? You’re the third high-profile staff person to leave.
A: It’s a tough question to answer. I can only speak for myself, and for me it’s coincidental. I was with Discovery for 13 years. TLC is at its best and I think it’s best to leave when you’re on top.
Q: Are you relocating to Knoxville, U.S.?
A: I’ll be based in Baltimore. Strategically it’s better for me, because of all the producers that go through the Washington area to meet with the networks in D.C.
Q: As VP of development, will you expand the base of indies with whom HGTV works?
A: I have good relationships with a lot of British producers and I think that’s part of the reason I was hired. A lot of them aren’t familiar with HGTV and in many cases they would be a great fit. A lot of innovative formats come out of Europe – in that respect they’re ahead of the U.S.
Q: Will you be developing format-based shows in the European style then?
A: I will take a good concept for a pilot, series or special and do what I did at TLC – Americanize it, if it needs to be. Hopefully it works. [HGTV] has a strong core of viewers – loyal viewers – who are very upscale. You don’t want to lose them, but [I will try to] bring in new viewers and try new programming.
Q: Does the proliferation of reality shows affect your mandate for HGTV?
A: Because of the success of Trading Spaces, I was developing a lot of lifestyle formats [at TLC]. That was part of the appeal of going to HGTV – I might as well go to the place that has that as its premiere outlet.