Clark Bunting isn’t holding Abby Greensfelder’s MBA against her.
“She’s one of the most creative people I’ve ever met,” said Mr. Bunting, executive VP, Discovery U.S. Networks Group, who promoted Ms. Greensfelder to senior VP of programming and development in April.
Ms. Greensfelder got her MBA from Wharton in mid-career, most of which she spent at Discovery, where she started as an intern after graduating from Yale. “She’s somebody who has come in and earned [her success] through hard work. She’s creative. She’s smart,” Mr. Bunting said.
Her most recent assignment was to shift Discovery away from its dependence on special programming by developing a base of personality-driven series. The results of that effort include “American Chopper,” “Monster House” and “MythBusters.” “She got it,” Mr. Bunting said. Those series brought young men into the Discovery audience and were consistent with the Discovery brand, he added.
Ms. Greensfelder was planning to go to law school when the Discovery opportunity came up in 1995. She said it was a dream to work in a creative environment. After her internship as a writer/researcher at Discovery, she moved to London to work on the production side at Transatlantic Films. She returned to Discovery in 1997 to work in development and moved to the company’s new media arm.
During 2001 and 2002 she spent Fridays and Saturdays working on her MBA-that pursuit being a departure for someone who had worked only on the creative side. “I wanted a broader understanding of how the finance and strategic side of business work,” she said.
After earning her advanced degree, she was tapped to run the channel’s programming and development operations, helping to create the current slate of broad-based hit shows. Those series had to be anchored by Discovery personalities, whom she described as “people who are experts or were passionate about what they did, not rent-a-hosts.”
Ms. Greensfelder downplayed her role in putting a hit like “American Chopper” on the air. “This is a good example of how things work at Discovery-it’s truly an integrated effort,” she said. “The producer found the Teutuls [the father and two sons featured in the show]. One of the folks in our development team saw the tape and just thought it was fabulous and brought it in to me, and we believed it could be a hit.”
The show worked and got a boost from a significant marketing effort. “That brought even more people to it,” establishing the Teutuls as budding cultural icons, she said.
And that’s what makes television exciting to Ms. Greensfelder. “That’s that element of you never know what’s going to pop through. You have instincts and you have hunches. You try to hone them as best you can, but there’s an element of surprise every time that makes it fun.”
At some point, Ms. Greensfelder said, she would be interested in running an organization. But for her, any job would have to have “a role that’s both creative and strategic.”
“She’s a rising star,” Mr. Bunting said. “She’s going to be one of those people [about whom] I will be delighted to say `I knew her when.”‘