Entertainment Industry

Category: TLC

Discovery's David Zaslav awarded $42.6 million in compensation in 2010

David Zaslav, chief executive of the Maryland-based Discovery Communications Inc., was awarded a compensation package valued at $42.6 million in 2010 -- more than triple his compensation for the previous year.

That's a lot of TLC.

Discovery owns such channels as Discovery, TLC, Animal Planet, Planet Green, Discovery Fit and Health as well as 50% of the Oprah Winfrey Network. Zaslav, a former high-level NBCUniversal executive, took the helm at Discovery in January 2007, a year before the company went public.  Its shares have increased by nearly 20% this year, closing Monday at $40.48. 

Zaslav was paid $2 million in salary. He received stock awards of $20.3 million and options that are currently valued at $15.4 million. The company also provided $4.4 million in non-equity incentives, plus other compensation, including travel and security expenses. Zaslav's total compensation for 2009 was $11.7 million.

The information was contained in a filing Monday to the Securities and Exchange Commission. 

Discovery's founder and chairman, John S. Hendricks, accepted a package valued at $9.5 million for 2010 -- a substantial reduction from his $17.3-million package, boosted by stock options, during the previous year. 

Mark G. Hollinger, chief executive of Discovery Networks International, received $5.6 million in 2010, and Peter Liguori, the company's chief operating officer, collected $4.9 million in salary, bonus, stock and options. Chief Financial Officer Bradley E. Singer's compensation was valued at $4 million.  

-- Meg James


TLC goes in different direction with Chandra Levy movie

Looks as though TLC is branching out.

After finding great success with reality shows such as "Cake Boss," "Sister Wives" and, of course, "Jon & Kate plus 8," TLC is going to make a "docu-movie" about the Chandra Levy case. Levy was a Bureau of Prisons intern who was murdered in 2001 while in Rock Creek Park.

LEVY After Levy went missing, attention focused on Congressman Gary Condit (D-Calif.), to whom she was linked romantically. While Condit has never said whether he was involved with Levy, he denied having anything to do with her death. The subsequent media storm drove him out of office.

Years later, another suspect emerged and last November that man -- Ingmar Guandique -- finally was convicted of her murder. The conviction came in part after a lengthy Washington Post series revisited the case and analyzed missteps by the police. The Washington Post also noted that the "police investigation was overwhelmed with the white-hot media coverage fueled by the possible involvement of Rep. Gary Condit, a congressman from California."

For TLC, which has emerged as a powerhouse for parent Discovery Communications, this is the latest step away from its reality bread and butter and seems to be a sign that it wants to branch into territory occupied by other cable channels. Lifetime, for example, lives on this sort of ripped-from-the-headline fare and recently found success with a movie about the so-called "Craig's List Killer."

Next Sunday, TLC goes after History Channel with its own documentary about the Kennedys featuring home movies of the family.

TLC said its Chandra Levy program "weaves dramatizations with original on-camera interviews to recount the events surrounding Levy’s sudden disappearance." In other words, they'll hire an actress to play Levy and show her jogging in the park.

As tragic as Levy's murder was, one wonders whether it would have received the media attention it did almost 10 years ago or whether TLC would be revisiting the case now without the Condit connection. Hopefully TLC's program will focus on the media's role in slowing an investigation as well as the goofs police made rather than just seek to capitalize on the 10-year anniversary of a tabloid story.

-- Joe Flint

Photo: Chandra Levy. Credit: Associated Press.








Discovery Communications promotes TLC boss Eileen O'Neill


Maybe Sarah Palin, the Cake Boss and Kate Gosselin should get thank you notes.

Eileen O'Neill, the president of the TLC cable channel, home to such hits as "Jon & Kate Plus 8," "Sister Wives" and "Sarah Palin's Alaska," has been given a big promotion by her bosses at Discovery Communications.

O'Neill will now have oversight over not only TLC, but also Discovery Channel, the flagship network of the cable programming giant. Her official title is Group President, Discovery and TLC Networks.

As a result of the restructuring, current Discovery Channel President Clark Bunting will report to O'Neill. TLC Chief Operating Officer Edward Sabin has been named interim general manager of TLC.

In making the announcement, Discovery Communications Chief Executive David Zaslav noted that under O'Neill, TLC has become a top-10 network for women. O'Neill has been with the company for more than two decades.

Others who got bumped up include Marjorie Kaplan, the president of Animal Planet who will now also have oversight over Science Channel, as well and Henry Schleiff, the president of Discovery ID who has added responsibility for Planet Green and FitTV to his business card.

-- Joe Flint

Photo: Discovery Communications Group President Eileen O'Neill with Buddy Valastro of "Cake Boss" and Jon and Kate Gosselin in 2009. Credit: Amy Sussman / Discovery Communications

You betcha! Sarah Palin show lands at TLC [Updated]

Sarah Palin
Maybe there will be a crossover episode with Kate Gosselin.

Discovery Communications' TLC cable network -- home to Kate Gosselin and her brood as well as "Cake Boss" -- has just added former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin to its roster.

TLC is the new home for a reality show featuring Palin and her family. Details about the show, which will be produced by Mark Burnett, whose credits include the CBS hit "Survivor," are sketchy. The show has an eight-episode commitment and is expected to premiere later this year at the earliest.

The program likely will be as much about Alaska as it is about Palin and her family. With a political career still in the offing, it seems unlikely that she will open the door that wide on the day-to-day life of her family.

[Updated at 10:51 a.m. Discovery stressed that this show, indeed, will be about more about Alaska than about  Palin and her family although she will have an active role on the show. The network is positioning the series more as documentary than reality show.

In the announcement for the show, Palin said her family enjoyed Discovery and that she looked "forward to working with Mark to bring the wonder and majesty of Alaska to all Americans."]

No price for the show was released, but reports of a license fee of more than $1 million per episode are over the top, a person close to the project said.

-- Joe Flint

Photo: Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is welcomed to the stage at the Orange County Republican Party fundraiser in Orlando, Fla., on March 12, 2010. Credit: Joe Burbank / Orlando Sentinel/Associated Press

TLC files breach-of-contract suit against Jon Gosselin

TLC has filed a breach-of-contract suit against Jon Gosselin, the co-star of its smash reality show "Jon & Kate Plus 8."

The suit, which was filed this morning in the Circuit Court of Montgomery County, Md., where TLC parent Discovery Communications is based, is the latest in an escalating battle between Gosselin and the cable network. Gosselin is also in the midst of a bitter split from his wife, Kate Gosselin. The suit charges that Jon Gosselin violated his contract by taking paying gigs from other television shows without permission including the CBS-syndicated shows "Entertainment Tonight" and "The Insider" while still under exclusive contract.

Furthermore, the suit alleges that Gosselin has made nonpaying media appearances without TLC's approval, which would also be in violation of his contract. The suit, which was filed on behalf of TLC by the powerful Washington law firm Williams & Connolly, says he has also harmed the show with his constant criticisms and, according to the suit, misstatements about being on the show and what goes on behind the scenes and revealing confidential information such as when he talked about his salary on CNN's "Larry King Live." The suit seeks to force Gosselin to abide by his contract and return the money he has made for appearing elsewhere.

In a statement, TLC said it has been trying "privately and patiently" for months to get Gosselin to honor his contract and "those efforts have been unsuccessful." Representatives for Gosselin could not immediately be reached for comment.

GOSSELIN "Jon & Kate plus 8," which premiered in 2007, follows the lives of a western Pennsylvania couple and their eight children. It was a modest success that exploded in the ratings after Gosselin became fodder for the tabloids for being seen out with women who weren't his wife. In June, the show in which the couple revealed that their marriage was ending drew more than 10 million viewers.

Since then, the Gosselins have dueled each other in the tabloids and on television. Both often appear on "Larry King Live" and Kate Gosselin has popped up on NBC's "Today." Of the two, Kate Gosselin has tried to keep a lower or perhaps slightly more dignified profile while Jon Gosselin has moved to New York City and is often seen in the the company of various women. Jon Gosselin has also indicated that he's tired of the show.

Late last month, TLC said it would greatly reduce Jon Gosselin's role and renamed the show "Kate Plus 8" with new episodes set to premiere in November. Gosselin subsequently threatened to file a cease-and-desist order, which stopped production of the show, at least as far as filming the children was concerned. The suit says that Gosselin made this threat an hour after being informed that his role on the show was being reduced.

Regardless of how all this plays out, it appears that the show is definitely heading for the finish line. Kate Gosselin has been busy planning her TV future. She has been working on a pilot for a daytime talk show that would be produced and distributed by Warner Bros. TLC is also working on a project with her, and the cable network granted permission to Kate to pursue other ventures and her talk show and print interviews were also pre-approved. 

For TLC, the Gosselins have been a double-edged sword. Although the show became a huge hit, it also has become a lightning rod for critics and a magnet for controversy and led some to criticize TLC. There is also concern from some advertisers and Discovery executives that the turn in tone of the program is at odds with TLC's attempt to promote a wholesome brand. In a July interview with the Los Angeles Times, TLC President Eileen O'Neill said her first year as head of the network was "heaven and hell" in no small part because of the headaches surrounding the show.

-- Joe Flint

Related posts:

Production stopped on "Jon & Kate"

Jon & Kate not done yet

TLC going gangbusters under O'Neill

Photo: Jon Gosselin. Credit: Angela Weiss / Getty Images.

TLC chief Eileen O'Neill on the pros and cons of 'Jon & Kate'


"Heaven and hell" is how Eileen O'Neill describes her first year at the helm of TLC, the cable network that is home to the controversial reality hit "Jon & Kate Plus 8."

O'Neill, 42, took over as president and general manager of TLC last July after the channel's ratings had dropped by 30% under predecessor Angela Shaprio-Mathis. Now she's wrapping up a record month. The channel averaged more than a million viewers in prime time, a 43% gain from the same month a year ago, including a 43% jump in female viewers ages 18 to 49, one of its target demos. The improvements are even more striking given that there were no new episodes of "Jon & Kate" during that period.

So that's heaven, and now here comes hell.

Next week, "Jon & Kate" returns. The show, which follows the life of Jon and Kate Gosselin and their eight kids, went from timid to tabloid. The couple's very public marital woes have played out on the small screen and in every gossip rag, and earlier this summer TLC put the show on hiatus after the spouses split.

Although all of this has been great for business -- the audience for the show has skyrocketed with the last episode, which ran in June and drew a record 10.6 million viewers -- it also has led to criticism that the network is exploiting the couple's problems for commercial gain.

The guarded O'Neill, who was instrumental in the development of "Jon & Kate" when it initially premiered on Discovery Health Channel, acknowledges that documenting the rocky road that the Gosselins are traveling has been "tough to navigate."

"Their status as a couple has obviously been disappointing; we can't change anything about people's lives," she said, adding that the show had "delivered for the family things that were important to them ... opportunities for them and the kids." 

It also has delivered things that were important for Discovery Communications-owned TLC. Before O'Neill took over, the knock on TLC was it had lost its way creatively and financially. Though she won't talk money, industry consulting firm SNL Kagan said TLC's ad revenue tumbled 5% to $270.5 million in 2008, a figure the channel should easily beat this year, according to people familiar with the situation. TLC also is now positioned to negotiate better distribution fees from cable and satellite operators. According to SNL Kagan, the channel currently gets 16 cents per subscriber. That is less than half of what cable networks such as USA and FX command and below the industry average for a network of its size.

Although no network would turn down the ratings and revenue that "Jon & Kate" have brought to TLC, the flip side is that the pressure increases on O'Neill to capture lightning twice.

"Now we have to grow over ourselves," O'Neill says. "That's the hard part."

She's off to a good start. TLC's new show "Cake Boss," about Hoboken, N.J., baker Buddy Valastro and his family, has averaged more than 2 million viewers and has just been renewed for a second season. Getting some traction on new shows is key because sooner or later the "Jon & Kate" juggernaut will fade.

Fortunately for O'Neill, Valastro's biggest personal problem appears to be his nagging mom, Mary, and they can't get divorced.

-- Joe Flint

Photo: From left, TLC President Eileen O'Neill with "Cake Boss' " Buddy Valastro and Jon and Kate Gosselin at a presentation to advertisers earlier this year. Credit: Amy Sussam/Discovery Communications


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