In Depth

Eileen O'Neill, President and General Manager of TLC

We certainly want to grow our ratings. We're going to have some challenges with 'Jon & Kate' off-the-air. We're very mindful of that.

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TVWeek: So what do you consider your biggest challenge? And what do you feel was your biggest accomplishment and what were you trying to do as you went back to TLC?

Eileen O'Neill: As I went back there, the priority was to grow the programming. And we’ve really grown it behind a strategy of looking for extraordinary real life characters and telling very good stories about them.

I think we’ve done a good job of telling good stories, finding great characters and experts and expanding genres like wedding, and certainly new to us, food. It’s been a challenge, but I’m pretty happy with the results so far.

TVWeek: And “Cake Boss” has done well. Everybody obviously talks about "Jon &Kate" but I think you’ve got a potential winner with “Cake Boss.”

O'Neill: Thank you. He’s interesting because he’s such a crossover. You can almost consider it a family show because he’s got that great Italian blood relatives behind the success of his bakery.

TVWeek. Let’s talk about Jon and Kate for a moment.


O'Neill: Well, Jon and Kate has been terrific for a hundred plus episodes for the last three years for the channel. We’ve been really proud to work with them and the last six or seven months have certainly been difficult for the family. I think our team, working through the last six or seven months, have been able to put a high quality program on the air. And also, to continue to grow other programs around it

.So the success of Jon and Kate, from a pure ratings performance, has been certainly exciting in 2009, driven by the media frenzy around it. But equally exciting is the number of shows that have been able to be little-couple-1.jpgsuccessful in taking advantage of the attention to the network. So "The Little Couple" and "Police Women" are new shows this summer that performed extremely well in the midst of all this.

TVWeek. I see. A halo affect. Could you talk for a little bit about how you interact with David Zaslav? It was David who brought you back to TLC.

O'Neill: David is a tremendous leader. He’s aggressive, he’s passionate, very smart. He’s kind of a lion. He’s got a big roar but even a bigger heart. I think the results speak for themselves. I think part of his success has been putting together a management team that is a very nice blend of veterans and new blood. And him also being open to finding talent, no matter where they are.

TVWeek: What do you see ahead for 2010?

O'Neill: We certainly want to grow our ratings. We’re going to have some challenges with “Jon & Kate Plus Eight” off the air, we’re very mindful of that.

We’ve also had, not only the success of the other shows on television, but VOD and our web have been strong, and as you’ve probably heard from the other general managers, being a strong content provider across multiple platforms continues to be a focus. And that will be a high focus for TLC as well.#

To read our introduction to this special report, "Cable TV Programmer of the Decade," click here.

To read our interview with Discovery President and CEO David Zaslav, click here.

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To read our interview with Carole Tomko, President and General Manager of Discovery Studios, click here.

To read our interview with Mark Hollinger, President and CEO, Discovery Networks International, click here