The news comes on the heels of a strong, if unspectacular, ratings year for the Discovery brands. The eponymous channel closed out 2010 as no. 12 among ad-supported networks in prime time, with an average nightly audience of 1.26 million total viewers. Discovery Channel was flat among the 18-49 set, averaging 674,000 in prime (no. 8).
Discovery also finished seventh among the 25-54 demo, growing 2 percent year-over-year with an average draw of 680,000.
TLC finished 18th among ad-supported cable nets in prime, averaging 1.1 million total viewers (up 3 percent from 2009), while claiming 13th place with the 18-49 demo (550,000) and 14th among those aged 25-54 (541,000).
Animal Planet improved its 18-49 deliveries 10 percent, marking the greatest growth among Discovery’s fully-distributed outlets. ID chalked up the most impressive gains in 2010, soaring 64 percent in prime with an average delivery of 364,000 viewers, of which half were members of the 25-54 demo.
Analysts believe this will be a banner year for Discovery’s ad sales team. According to a new Beta Research survey, 46 percent of media buyers and advertisers said they planned to spend more money on the flagship channel in 2011.
SNL Kagan projections are just as rosy. The researcher projects Discovery’s U.S. networks will get $1.32 billion in net ad sales this year, improving on last year’s haul ($1.17 billion) by some 13 percent.
The company’s most recent re-org occurred just 13 months ago, when Bunting unseated John Ford as president and general manager of Discovery Channel. At the same time Discovery announced Ford’s departure, it said it would restructure its emerging networks along demographic lines. Schleiff was handed oversight of the male-targeted properties (Military Channel, Discovery HD and ID), while the female-friendly channels were packaged under Michalchyshyn.
Today’s reshuffling did not have any material impact on relative newcomers OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network and the kids-centric net The Hub.