TLC topper tackles challenges without fear

Angela Shapiro-Mathes wasn’t looking to take over TLC, the reality-centric cabler once known as the Learning Channel.

But the newly named president-g.m. has made a career out of shifting gears and tackling new challenges. She has done everything from owning her own marketing company (where she helped create the 1970s mood ring fad) and launching Soap Opera Digest to heading ABC Daytime, ABC Family and most recently Fox TV Studios.

“It comes down to what you learn in each job,” she says, “what you take with you. You have to embrace life as an adventure and have to love what you do.”

In the case of TLC, Shapiro-Mathes says she sat down with new Discovery Communications prexy-CEO David Zaslav to learn his plans for the company. The channel that “Trading Spaces” built saw its fortunes start to fade after the home makeover bubble burst — but Zaslav believes there’s a way to once again make the channel one of cable’s top destinations.

After an hour of talking with Zaslav, she was sold.

“In my head, I was just going to meet someone I thought was a smart, good guy,” she says. “But I was totally swept in by the passion and the vision.”

Shapiro-Mathes admits she also grew tired of being on the seller side of things as president of Fox TV Studios and was itching to get back into the driver’s seat of a major programming entity.

“One of the frustrations on the selling side is you come up with an idea for a show, you create it, you sell it, then you have to give it up,” says Shapiro-Mathes, who believes the new TLC gig will better tap into her roots.

“The entrepreneurial world is what I know, and that’s what I feel coming here,” she says.

Vocation: “I went to Catholic school and I think the last time someone asked me about my vocation, it was the nuns telling me that God was calling. I became a TV executive, so clearly if He did call, it went straight to voicemail.”

Recent breakthrough: “I went on vacation without a BlackBerry.”

Role model: “My role model for life is my mother. My mentor and professional role model is Pat Fili-Krushel.”

Career mantra: “Know what’s most important, be smart and have a personal support team.”

What’s next: “You’ll just have to stay tuned.”

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