Bunting buoyed to Discovery exec VP

Exec to replace Quattrone, who ankles at end of March

NEW YORK — Discovery Channel, which has delivered solid primetime ratings increases in the last year, has shifted Clark Bunting from executive VP and GM of Animal Planet to the same post at Discovery Channel.

Bunting, 45, succeeds Mike Quattrone, who is leaving Discovery at the end of March.

“We’re facing a soft advertising market,” said Bunting, “but our environment will help advertisers to cut through the clutter. We reach high-income 25- to 54-year-olds who are well educated, with a fairly even break out between men and women.”

No worries

Bunting said he’s not worried about losing some of Discovery’s suppliers of reality programming to the broadcast networks in the event of a strike by writers and actors. “We have a lot of product in the pipeline,” he said.

A strike that deprived the broadcast network of their scripted dramas and sitcoms could be a boon to Discovery, Bunting says, because large numbers of disaffected viewers could desert the broadcasters and sample more of the programming on cable.

Discovery may also move in the new direction of commissioning docudramas and other fictional programming, he said, pointing to Animal Planet’s success with scripted series like “Lassie” and “Call of the Wild.”

Because the competitive landscape keeps getting rockier, he said, “Discovery has to continue to assume new risks, creating new genres and looking for new ways of doing programming.”

Bunting joined Discovery in 1985, a month after the network opened for business. He worked with its in-house production unit, creating shows for Discovery and its sister Learning Channel. He was senior VP of programming for Discovery Networks from 1994 to 1996 and became the first executive VP and GM of Animal Planet in 1996.Quattrone, a nine-year veteran of the Discovery Networks, rose to GM of Discovery in May 1996.

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