Discovery Communications Exec Eileen O'Neill Leaving Company

Eileen O'Neill

The 25-year veteran was recently named global group president at Discovery Studios.

Longtime Discovery Communications executive Eileen O'Neill has announced that she's leaving the company after 25 years.

In August, the longtime executive was named to the newly created position of global group president at Discovery Studios. She was set to assume that role in March, but, in a staff memo, O'Neill said she's leaving the company instead. She will exit on May 1, she said.

In her new role she would have led the company's international efforts and overseen creative talent. She also would have assumed a position on the board of directors of All3Media, the U.K.-based production giant that Discovery acquired with Liberty Global in a deal valued at $930 million.

Prior to her Discovery Studios appointment, O'Neill was group president of Discovery Channel, Science and Velocity Networks, overseeing the strategic direction at all three networks. Before that, she was group president for Discovery Channel, TLC and Discovery Fit & Health.

O'Neill was instrumental in the rebranding of TLC from the staid “learning channel” to the unscripted force it became with such pop culture hits including the John & Kate franchise. She also helped to build Discovery into a powerhouse with popular male-target series such as American Chopper, Gold Rush and Bering Sea Gold. And she led that network's efforts in live-event programming, successfully poaching Nik Wallenda from ABC in 2013 for the tightrope walkers Grand Canyon traverse. It averaged 10.7 million viewers in the dog days of August when television usage is low. (Wallenda's Chicago tightrope walk last November was off from his pervious stunts, peaking at 6.7 million viewers.)

O'Neill also was instrumental in the launch of Naked and Afraid and oversaw Discovery's first scripted miniseries, Klondike, in 2014.

O'Neill started at Discovery Communications as an unpaid intern while earning a graduate degree in popular culture from Bowling Green State University. She was hired by DCI's networks operation department after graduation.

Read O'Neill's staff memo below.

Dear Teams,
 
Hope this note finds East Coasters staying warm and West Coasters not acting too smug:)
 
I want you to know, effective May 1, 2015, I will no longer be at Discovery Communications. The date is significant as it marks my 25th anniversary with this truly amazing company (not including the four months of unpaid internship labor that preceded my hiring date!).  

I realize not everyone will miss my emoticon-laced memos, sent at all times of the night and day, but I know I will miss you guys.  Through incredible successes, and not a few nail-biting challenges, we always delivered as a team.
 
Together, we still hold the highest prime delivery this century of any reality show on all major ad-supported cable networks for W25-54 (4.1M) and W18-49 (4.6M)  (Jon and Kate); we introduced a sweet baker and a couple of fast and loud car guys to our global audiences; we celebrated five more births with Jim and Michelle Duggar since we first met them in 2004; we held hands and held our collective breath watching Felix Baumgartner ascend to Emmy-winning heights and Nik Wallenda power-walk across the Grand Canyon and into history; we cheered as Prince William and Kate said “I Do” to our global audiences Live; we said prayers for and with our talent (both crew and on-air characters) as they ventured to some of the harshest locations around the world, some never to return; one dark September day, some of us huddled with colleagues and strangers in offices, waiting for an all clear signal that it was safe to leave One Discovery Place; we kept audiences hooked on chopper builders and gold seekers; we took risks to find the first images of a giant squid and we crashed a 727 airplane for the sake of aviation safety; we found a little couple big on heart and a medium full of love; we never shied from controversy whether it was with Muslims in Michigan, Sarah in Alaska or Amish folk in places which surprised; and, of course, we unleashed mega sharks (and a seal named Snuffy) for record-breaking Shark Weeks.
 
This isn’t so much a goodbye note as it is a note to thank you.  I have always said that I was spoiled by working with the best teams in the business; that truth has never diminished.
 
With unabashed admiration and affection,
EO

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