In a major shakeup at the Discovery Networks, two of the company’s top programming chiefs are exiting their posts.
Discovery Channel head of programming and development Abby Greensfelder and TLC production/development chief Sean Gallagher are ankling to set up the independent production shingle Half Yard Prods.
Company is finalizing an overall production pact with Discovery Networks that will include several series commitments.
Departures come as something of a surprise, given the recent upswing at Discovery and TLC, both of which recently launched initiatives to get back to their science/learning-based roots. Both cablers posted modest upticks in first-quarter primetime ratings — considerable achievements in light of losses stretching over two years.
For Discovery, the loss is big, and net exec VP-general manager Jane Root has launched a search to replace Greensfelder immediately. She leaves just as Discovery, under her guidance, is reuniting with its core viewers, ordering shows like “Everest: No Experience Necessary,” a series that follows ordinary people who risk everything to climb one of the world’s deadliest mountains, and partnering with Ted Koppel on news docs and programs.
Over at TLC, topper David Abraham has promoted Christian Drobnyk to senior VP of programming and development, filling Gallagher’s slot. Drobnyk was previously a VP of programming.
Greensfelder and Gallagher are expected to stay on at Discovery Networks through June. Pair had worked together for several years at Discovery Channel, where Gallagher had been based before moving over to TLC last June to help it out of its ratings slide.
During her nine-year tenure, Greensfelder has been responsible for some of Discovery’s biggest ratings grabs, including the channel’s top-rated franchise, “Deadliest Season.” A few years ago, she was tasked with shifting Discovery away from special event-driven programming and, alongside 11-year vet Gallagher, came up with personality-anchored hits “Monster Garage” and “American Chopper.” An overreliance on the male-driven genre — internally referred to as “tattoo TV” — drove Discovery back to its roots when ratings began to suffer a couple of years ago.
As for TLC, which had overrun its marquee franchise “Trading Spaces,” Gallagher was part of the team that has helped relaunch the net earlier this year as the Learning Channel. Exec was called over to TLC as it refocused its efforts toward knowledge-based entertainment programming such as “Honey, We’re Killing the Kids” and “Little People, Big World.”
Before moving into the programming ranks, Greensfelder worked on new-media development for Discovery Channel and its accompanying Web site. Gallagher previously worked as a freelance producer.