Delan was born in Manhattan, New York, to attorney and stock broker Daniel Delan, and advertising executive and artist, Stephanie Lord Delan. He has one older brother, Douglas Scott Delan, who works in the educational field.
Delan attended Phillips Exeter Academy alongside subsequent music, film, and television veterans Bobby Shriver, Miles Chapin, Jim Kramer and Benmont Tench (current keyboard player for Tom Petty). Upon early graduation from Exeter, Delan attended Columbia University in New York, making the Dean’s List both semesters. As a sophomore, Delan was recruited to Princeton University as part of an effort to strengthen the English Department student body. During his academic experience at Princeton University, Delan was a member of the Phi Beta Kappa society, and won the Junior English Prize, as well as the Senior Thesis Prize in English. He also was an active journalist, working on the papers of Henry David Thoreau, as the editor of The Nassau Lit, and a writer and critic for The Daily Princetonian. Delan graduated from Princeton University Summa Cum Laude in 1976, the same graduating year as Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Following college, Delan began his career as a staff writer and editor for Time-Life Books, first in Manhattan and then in the Washington D.C. area.
Delan was given his start in television in 1979, working for ABC News in the ABC News Closeup documentary unit under Pamela Hill. There, he helped produce investigative reports with several big names in media, including a film featuring writer and historian William Manchester, and hosts Hugh Downs, Peter Jennings, and Barbara Walters. Titles that Delan worked on include After the Sexual Revolution and Growing Old in America, and Rain of Terror, termed by the Wall Street Journal in an editorial as "the single best piece of television journalism we've ever witnessed."
In 1986, Delan was hired at HBO to help build and serve as an executive producer of the America Undercover documentary series, as well as informational family programming specials. During his time working at HBO, Delan was known for recruiting and shepherding filmmakers such as Alan and Susan Raymond, Jon Alpert and Albert Maysles, and working on programs featuring personalities such as Walter Cronkite and Mary Tyler Moore. Delan was hired by Lifetime Television in 1990 to develop a variety of series and specials ranging from game shows and documentaries, to live events and their first primetime nonfiction series, Confessions of Crime, as well as working with acclaimed actors and actresses, such as Glenn Close (on the documentary Broken Hearts, Broken Homes).
When Landmark Communications in Norfolk, Virginia, purchased The Travel Channel, Delan was hired in 1992 to help restart and grow the network, based in Atlanta. In addition to bringing in personalities such as Charles Kuralt, he also premiered the long-running series now known as Globe Trekker (originally titled Lonely Planet).
In 1996, the founder of the Sundance Film Festival, Robert Redford, approached Delan to be the Creative Director and Executive Vice President of the Sundance Channel —a venture between Redford, Showtime, and Polygram. Working directly with Redford and Festival director Geoffrey Gilmore, Delan produced live broadcasts from the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. Delan also worked with filmmakers to develop original films (Marina Zenovich on Independent’s Day and Leslie McCleave on Meeting Marty), as well as prominent actors such as Jon Cryer, Susan Sarandon, and Meg Tilly.
In November 1998, Delan was hired as the Executive Vice President and Chief Programming Officer of WETA Washington D.C., the third largest producing station for PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) and the flagship public television station in the nation’s capital. At WETA, Delan works with Sharon Percy Rockefeller, wife of John Davison "Jay" Rockefeller IV, retired senior Senator from West Virginia. Delan collaborated with Kerry Kennedy, the daughter of Robert Kennedy, on an adaptation of her book Speak Truth to Power, which was filmed onstage at the Kennedy Center, with readings by Sigourney Weaver, John Malkovich and a number of distinguished actors. Delan serves as Executive in Charge of Production for WETA on the films of Ken Burns. In 2003, Jerry Nachman, then New York Post editor and editor-in-chief of MSNBC, called Delan "the so-called father of reality TV."
In 1999, Ken Bode's contract as moderator on the popular news discussion talk show, “Washington Week in Review” was not renewed. Despite criticism from Bode and his supporters, Delan held his ground in the ensuing media firestorm, and temporarily brought back long-time moderator Paul Duke before naming journalist Gwen Ifill, who became the moderator. This move would help create a newly successful Washington Week with Gwen Ifill.
While working at ABC News in 1981, Delan met his future wife Stacey Lauren Delan (8/17/1958–present). They married on August 11, 1982. Together, they have two children, Dashiell (10/9/1988–present) and Jesse (9/7/1991–present).
In 2012, Delan wrote a children's book, Christmas Rose, illustrated by Yolanda Prinsloo. Delan wrote the entry on "Bob Dylan cover songs" in "The Enlightened Bracketologist: The Final Four of Everything," edited by Mark Reiter and Richard Sandomir. Also, Delan was the Editor of "Positively Prince Street" in 1979.