THR's Women in Entertainment 2012: Power 100
As the leader of two divergent brands in the Silver Spring, Md.-based Discovery portfolio, O'Neill has maintained the flagship quality of Discovery Channel (the No. 8 network among men 25-to-54 in the third quarter, thanks to the success of Shark Week, Sons of Guns and Bering Sea Gold; quarterly earnings for the company were $206 million) while guiding a rebrand of TLC from the home of dry documentaries to a repository for subculture reality (Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, Breaking Amish) that often draws as much criticism as it does high ratings. O'Neill, 46, who has a 12-year-old son with her partner, makes no apologies for Honey Boo Boo, the show about a sassy 7-year-old beauty pageant aspirant and her rural Georgia family. It ranked No. 1 on ad-supported cable in its Wednesday night time slot among all key demographics and has been picked up for a second season. And she points out that "in the same year we hit pop-culture gold with Honey Boo Boo, we also potentially furthered science and safety technology with Plane Crash," part of the Discovery series Curiosity.
Moment I knew I wanted to work in the business: I was a starving grad student [at Bowling Green State University in Ohio], eating popcorn and Kraft mac and cheese, and a big, glossy Discovery Channel intern packet was sent to me in the mail.
Who gave me my first big break: Former Discovery Channel president Clark Bunting, who recognized my passion -- despite having no experience for program scheduling -- and moved me from business affairs to Travel Channel scheduling.
When I leave work each day, I can't wait to: See my family and then check the FiOS "What's Hot" app in primetime to see who is getting traction.
Favorite way to unwind on the weekend: Walking our beagle, Riley.
My indulgence: Ben & Jerry's Milk & Cookies ice cream.
Can't get through my workday without: Teasing [TLC senior vp production and development] Howard Lee about something; listening to sarcasm from [Discovery/TLC spokesperson] Laurie Goldberg and being first to comment on Nielsen overnights.
Most surprising song on my iPhone: My team won't be surprised that I have the theme song from Rocky.
Proudest moments this year: Discovery aired Space Jump Live to record Sunday afternoon numbers, and TLC rocked prime with Long Island Medium and Breaking Amish.
Totally starstruck around: Josh Charles and Harrison Ford.
What I'd tell my 22-year-old self about working in Hollywood: "Don't work in Hollywood; commute there from Washington, D.C."
Best advice I've ever gotten: From my dad in a greeting card: "Protect yours; kick theirs."
When my relatives are confused about what I do, I tell them: I watch TV.
Top three shows on my DVR: The Good Wife, Scandal and Downton Abbey.
Embarrassed to admit I watch: iCarly.
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