Discovery announces restructuring; Eileen O’Neill named group president, Discovery and TLC Networks

The TLC topper is upped to a newly created position that will have her overseeing Discovery Communications' flagship brands.
January 13, 2011

In recognition of what Discovery Communications president and CEO David Zaslav calls her “big, bold swings” as president/GM of female-skewing net TLC, Eileen O’Neill has been upped to the newly-created position of group president, Discovery and TLC Networks.

The move is part of a larger restructuring of the U.S. nets announced today by Discovery Communications president and CEO David Zaslav, which also sees Animal Planet president/GM Marjorie Kaplan upped to president, Animal Planet and Science Networks, and Investigation Discovery and Military Networks president/GM Henry Schleiff take on added responsibilities for the company’s Emerging Networks division.

Zaslav, in a statement, called O’Neill “a home-grown Discovery talent with a 21-year track record of success that is nothing short of astounding,” saying that each network she’s led has been “infused with creativity, innovation and content that breaks through the clutter of the television landscape.”

“Most recently, her big, bold swings at TLC have transformed that network and driven it into the top 10 for women with an incredible 31 series averaging more than 1 million viewers in 2010,” he added. “We’re so proud and privileged to have Eileen at this company and I am confident her leadership will drive our biggest engines – Discovery Channel and TLC – to even greater success.”

Discovery Channel president and GM Clark Bunting will report to O’Neill, as will TLC chief operating officer Edward Sabin, who is serving as interim general manager of TLC. Prior to this restructuring, Bunting was also president of Science Channel.

Hits at TLC developed during O’Neill’s time at the top have included Jon & Kate Plus 8, Cake Boss, Say Yes to the Dress and controversial programs such as Sister Wives and Sarah Palin’s Alaska. Before TLC, she oversaw the launch of Planet Green and was GM of Discovery Health. She joined Discovery Communications as an intern while working toward her graduate degree in popular culture from Bowling Green State University.

Kaplan, who took over Animal Planet in 2007, oversaw a rebranding that has given it the biggest hits in its history, Whale Wars and River Monsters. It closed 2010 as a top 30 cable net, with its best yearly performance ever amongst top demos. Science Channel GM Debbie Myers will report to Kaplan.

For the emerging networks, Fit TV and Planet Green, president and GM Laura Michalchyshyn will report to Schleiff. Under his watch, Investigation Discovery is now the fastest-growing network in cable for both audience growth and distribution, says Discovery.

“Both Marjorie and Henry are outstanding creative executives with a proven knack for developing compelling characters and stories that resonate with viewers. I look forward to them bringing this same innovative and energetic approach to strengthen and grow our other U.S. brands,” said Zaslav.

About The Author
Jonathan Paul is a Toronto-based writer into creativity, content, advertising, tech, comics, video games, film, TV, time and space travel.