Digital

Travel Channel Pulls New President From Executive Ranks as It Tries to Find a Vision

Feb 06, 2014 11:00 am

Skift Take

Travel Channel’s new CEO has the challenge of making the brand relevant in a time when most travelers are turning to digital content for inspiration.

— Samantha Shankman

Free Report: The Changing Business of Extended-Stay Hotels

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District  / Flickr

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District resident engineer explains the operation of installing a barrier wall to Travel Channel's Off Limits host Don Wildman. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District / Flickr


Travel Channel vice president and CFO Shannon O’Neill was named the brand’s new president yesterday. O’Neill served in his previous roles at the channel for three years prior to today’s announcement.

“Our mission at Travel Channel is to build a team of engaging, expert hosts who accompany our viewers on amazing journeys, adventures and experiences,” O’Neill said in a statement.

Former Travel Channel president Laureen Ong served in the role for three years before stepping down at the end of October 2013.

Burton Jablin, president of Scripps Networks operating division oversaw the network’s operations and development in the interim.

A statement from owner Scripps Network Interactive says the brand reaches more than 96 million U.S. households.

Rocky Future

O’Neill’s path forward with the brand is as fraught as a haunted site on “Ghost Adventures.” Unlike sister channels HGTV and Food Network that have built out their brands in retail, licensing, and publishing, Travel Channel has failed to find a consistent voice or regular audience.

It’s opted instead for a scatter-shot programming approach that leads to shows about airports and global food culture sharing a schedule with ones about toy collectors, paranormal hucksters, and random ‘mysteries.’

In December 2012, Scripps Networks CEO Ken Lowe said the company saw Travel Channel as “probably our single biggest opportunity” in terms of growth over the next couple of years. It has not yet delivered.

This was six months after the brand’s biggest star Anthony Bourdain announced he and his production team were leaving the Travel Channel for CNN to produce ‘Parts Unknown.’

The closest person to a Bourdain replacement is Bizarre Foods host Andrew Zimmern, who has a strong social media following, but hasn’t posted the same viewer numbers as Bourdain. The channel has attempted to groom other hosts as diverse as coffee-maker Todd Carmichael and faded 1980s pop star Brett Michaels.

O’Neill has just over two months to prepare for upfronts, when it lays out for advertisers its slate of shows for the rest of 2014. Last year’s crop of new programs failed to produce a breakout hit, although they did extend the run of Hotel Impossible and give long-time favorite Adam Richman a new show where he could travel without eating an obscene amount of food.

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