Shapiro-Mathes to head cable network

After three years as head of Fox TV Studios, Angela Shapiro-Mathes is ankling to head TLC as prexy-general manager.

Shapiro-Mathes replaces David Abraham, who left earlier this year at the same time new Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav was making structural changes at TLC’s parent company.

Abraham recently returned to his native U.K. and now serves as CEO of UKTV. Christian Drobnyk remains as head of programming.

Move had been rumored for weeks, but Shapiro-Mathes had kept mum. Nonetheless, word spread of her imminent departure in recent days.

News was timed to TLC parent Discovery Communications’ upfront presentation Tuesday in Beverly Hills.

Shapiro-Mathes, who starts July 1, will head development, programming, production, new media, marketing, research and communications, the company said. She’ll report to Zaslav.

“Angela has a record of achievement that few can match,” Zaslav said. “Key to all these positions is her unique ability to create content and brands, and broker advertising, new media and marketing partnerships.”

After suffering a ratings collapse as former smashes like “Trading Spaces” were hit by a glut of similar skeins in the marketplace, TLC has more recently been back on an upswing.

Cabler ranks among the top 25 cablers in total viewers in the first quarter of 2007 (up 15% vs. last year), and just shy of the top 10 with adults 18-34 (up 25% vs. first quarter 2006). The channel has seen year-to-year growth over the past 13 months, thanks to the strength of originals including “Little People, Big World,” “Miami Ink” and “What Not to Wear.”

Shapiro-Mathes will be based in Los Angeles, and will at first split her time between the West Coast and TLC’s Silver Spring, Md., headquarters. Discovery is already calling TLC its “first bicoastal network.”

But it’s believed more of the TLC programming decisions will eventually shift to Los Angeles, where many of the channel’s program suppliers are located.

Shapiro-Mathes’ hiring reps the latest in an ongoing reorganization by Zaslav, who has made major waves at the company since taking over last fall. Since then, Billy Campbell departed as president of Discovery Networks U.S.; the company’s Travel Channel was sold to Cox in exchange for that company’s stake in Discovery; and major layoffs were announced.

The TLC gig puts Shapiro-Mathes back in charge of a cable network for the first time since her short stint as president of the ABC Family Channel. Shapiro-Mathes left that job in late 2003 after a Disney organizational shuffle put the cabler under the oversight of Disney Channel execs.

Shapiro-Mathes had joined ABC Family in 2002, soon after Disney bought the property from Fox. Before that, she served in dual roles at Disney as both president of Buena Vista Prods. (which she took on in 2000) and head of ABC daytime (which she was named in 1998).

Before her move into television, Shapiro-Mathes co-founded Soap Opera Digest and launched Soap Opera Update magazine.

Meanwhile, despite rumors to the contrary, News Corp. execs say they plan to keep Fox TV Studios in operation, and bring on someone to replace Shapiro-Mathes in the coming days.

FTVS produces skeins including FX’s “The Riches” and “The Shield,” as well as USA’s “Burn Notice,” TNT’s “Saving Grace” and E!’s “The Girls Next Door.” FTVS also is a partner in Regency TV, a joint venture with New Regency.

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