In a surprise move, TLC president and general manager Angela Shapiro-Mathes was ousted Friday from her position, just a little more than a year after taking the reins at the Discovery Communications-owned network.
Discovery Communications president and CEO David Zaslav named 17-year Discovery executive Eileen O’Neill to head the network in a “change in the creative and organizational direction for TLC.”
Shapiro-Mathes, the former head of ABC Family and Fox Television Studios, took over the general-entertainment network on July 1, 2007 and later moved most of TLC’s operations to Los Angeles. O’Neill will head TLC out of Discovery headquarters in Silver Spring, Md., as the programmer scales back its West Coast presence.
O'Neill already has some TLC experience. While still heading Discovery Health, she oversaw the network on an interim basis in 2007 before Mathis came on board.
During her 13-month tenure, Shapiro-Mathes acquired high-profile franchises such as the Miss America pageant and oversaw the return of ex-Trading Spaces host Paige Davis to the former TLC series cynosure.
But Mathes was unable to improve TLC’s primetime ratings: the network averaged a 0.8, down 13% from the previous year.
“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,” O'Neill said in an interview Friday afternoon,
She called the move "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."
Zaslav offered kind words about Shapiro-Mathes in a statement: “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 will take over the network a month after shepherding the launch of Discovery’s 24-hour ecological-oriented channel Planet Green. Discovery’s Emerging Networks Group president Clark Bunting will oversee Planet Green, while the company looks for a new leader for the 24-hour. eco-lifestyle television network.
“With massive reach, brand awareness and a foothold in popular programming genres including lifestyle, fashion, real estate and families, TLC is well-positioned for the future,” said Zaslav. “Eileen is 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.”
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R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.