With ABC News chief Ben Sherwood named today to replace Anne Sweeney as president of Disney/ABC Television Group, betting money is on James Goldston, senior vice president of ABC News, stepping in to replace Sherwood at the helm of the news division. ABC News declined to comment.
Related: Q&A: Inoming Disney/ABC TV Group President Ben Sherwood
Goldston’s the guy credited with saving Nightline from oblivion, and turning Good Morning America into the franchise that deposed NBC’s Today as king of the morning show ratings — though Goldston already had been upped to Sherwood’s No. 2 guy, and Tom Cibrowski, who’d worked with Goldston on GMA, had been promoted to GMA chief when the program actually went in for the kill. Discussions about Goldston generally include the expression “golden gut” and he is said to be well-liked in the news division. He’s also considered so valuable to the news operation that discussion of Sherwood-replacement plans don’t seem to include any other names.
Read More »
While attention had been focused on who would replace Anne Sweeney atop Disney/ABC’s TV Group, observers ponder what the choice would say about Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Iger plans for the future of the company. Thomas Staggs and Jay Rasulo both have already done stints as CFO and head of the Disney parks division and are considered leading contenders to succeed Iger in the top post when he departs in 2016. If one of them is chosen to oversee Disney’s non-sports TV assets, the appointment would anoint that executive as an Iger heir apparent as the job would give him entertainment experience, a background both Iger and his predecessor Michael Eisner had before taking on the CEO job. For whoever within the Disney Co. takes the job (and Iger had indicated he doesn’t intend to look outside the company), it would be a learning curve. The only executive with experience in both TV programming and managing global portfolio, A+E Networks CEO Nancy Dubuc, is under a long-term contract at a very successful company, which Disney doesn’t own outright but is a 50-50 partner with Hearst, making a transition to Disney-ABC problematic (though not impossible).
The other possibility that has been gaining momentum — of splitting Sweeney’s portfolio into two — is even more intriguing. ABC’s morning golden boy, News President Ben Sherwood, is being groomed for a Jeff Zucker-type career trajectory from morning TV to a top network job, with another executive, like Rebecca Campbell, president of the ABC Stations Group, possibly overseeing the rest of the portfolio. Read More »
In April 2004, ABC was wrapping its third consecutive season in last place among adults 18-49. Then-rising star Disney cable executive Anne Sweeney was brought in, greatly expanding her portfolio to include the struggling broadcast network and its sister studio along with her oversight of Disney’s cable properties. She’s had successes — most notably the gutsy 2010 move to install Ben Sherwood, then considered a polarizing figure, as head of ABC News, as he went on to revitalize Good Morning America and take the morning ratings lead away from incumbent Today. (Sherwood’s morning success has him already tipped for a Jeff Zucker-type career trajectory to a big network job at ABC.)
Related: Disney/ABC TV Group President Anne Sweeney To Exit In January 2015 To Become TV Director
But there has been little change in primetime. There was an initial momentum brought in by three shows developed by the dismissed ABC executives when Sweeney and her lieutenant Steve McPherson stepped in – Lost, Grey’s Anatomy and Desperate Housewives, which launched during the 2004-05 season, followed by Dancing With The Stars in June 2005. Since then, there has been a breakout success in Modern Family, several slow builders in hits Scandal, Shark Tank and Castle and a few other solid players. But in the end, Sweeney will leave ABC where she found it, wrapping its third consecutive season in last place among the broadcast networks. Read More »
After 18 years at Disney, Anne Sweeney, co-chair, Disney Media Networks and president, Disney/ABC Television Group, will be stepping down at the end of her current contract in January 2015 to pursue a career as a TV director. “The past 18 years at Disney have been the highlight of my executive career,” Sweeney said. “But as wonderful as the experience has been, there has always been a nagging voice in the back of my head pushing me to step out of the comfort zone of the executive ranks and more directly into the creative arena that enticed me to TV in the first place. I finally listened to that voice and thought, ‘if not now, when?’ I know my decision to step back from all of this to learn the art of Directing may seem surprising, but to me it’s a long realized dream.”
Sweeney’s exit, which had been rumored on and off for the past several years, comes as the group’s flagship network, ABC, has been going through rough times. Sweeney brought in current ABC president Paul Lee who may be losing his biggest supporter at the company with her departure. Said Disney topper Bob Iger, “Over the years, Anne grew our Disney Channel business into a global powerhouse and the main brand driver of our Company around the world; built ABC Family into a top cable network … Read More »
UPDATE 1 PM: The search for Michael Riley‘s replacement is still in the nascent stages, but his No. 2, EVP Original Programming and Development and Chief Creative Officer Kate Juergens, is being talked about as a logical choice. The main question is whether, following her recent promotion to a Chief Creative Officer, Juergens would want the top job. The situation is reminiscent of that at sibling Disney Channel, where the top creative executive, Gary Marsh, did not go for the president job when Rich Ross left to run Disney Studios. After the job became vacant again two years later when Carolina Lightcap left, Marsh took over. Juergens similarly had been ABC Family’s top development executive but did not make a play for the president position when Paul Lee left in 2010. Will she do it now?
PREVIOUS 12:05 PM: Michael Riley is leaving ABC Family after a three-year stint as president. The move comes on the heels of a strong summer for the cable network, which launched two breakout new series, The Fosters and Twisted, both of which have received back orders. Anne Sweeney, President, Disney/ABC Television Group, has asked Riley to stay on during the search for his replacement. Riley, who for the past few months has been commuting between Los Angeles and London, where his partner had relocated, is expected to look for opportunities in the international marketplace where he worked before joining Disney in 2008. (His experience in the arena includes stints as VP and general manager, Turner Broadcasting System France, and SVP and GM, Turner Broadcasting, Europe, Middle East and Africa). Read More »
Disney Media Networks co-Chair Anne Sweeney talked up the controversial idea in a panel of program execs at the opening session of the National Cable Show this morning. Comcast and other cable operators hope to land series that might go to subscription streaming services such as Netflix by offering opportunities to broadcast them on VOD with ads, and the fast forward disabled. That would be “a very positive thing for the economics of television and television production,” Sweeney says. Even so, she says that with the burgeoning number of platforms for TV “The consumer has taken control and they’re not giving it back.” Programmers here say that they don’t fear time shifting. Showtime’s Matt Blank noted that with DVRs and other on-demand technologies “80% of the people who watch Nurse Jackie watch it after the premiere on Sunday night.” As much as 70% of the people who watch Homeland and Dexter also see episodes after they first air. “The more ways we can provide an on demand platform the more successful we’ll be.” AMC Networks chief Josh Sapan agreed, observing that VOD platforms have given his channels “a rich, rich, rich opportunity to expand the fan base and audience….The calendar is not quite the calendar anymore.”
Rupert Murdoch, Brian Roberts, Bob Iger, David Zaslav, Julius Genachowski, and Katie Couric are among the boldfaced names paying tribute to Disney/ABC Television Group President Anne Sweeney in this video from Syracuse University and Broadway Video. It will be shown at university’s Mirror Awards luncheon tomorrow in NYC where Sweeney will receive the Fred Dressler Leadership Award. The university will present a Lifetime Achievement Award honoring Dick Clark, and the I-3 innovation award to political statistician Nate Silver. The Mirror Awards also recognize some of the year’s best journalism about the media. Click over to view. Read More »
Less than two hours after Barry Diller extolled the value of his Aereo streaming service on the same stage, the co-chair of Disney Media Networks and president of the Disney/ABC Television Group took a different view. “I think it is wrong. I think it is illegal, I think it is opportunistic piracy,” Anne Sweeney said today. “It’s taking advantage of our content”, she added. ABC is one of the broadcasters suing the Diller-backed Aereo for copyright infringement. Earlier in the day, Diller had spoken of how he was glad the broadcasters had sued him because of all the attention it brought the small but growing service.
Related: Barry Diller Says Aereo Expanding Further Read More »
EXCLUSIVE… BREAKING…I’ve just learned that there’s a restructure underway that will consolidate the Disney/ABC financial top jobs under one top executive who’ll report to mogul Anne Sweeney. The new guy put in charge is Peter Seymour who’ll fill the newly created position of EVP and CFO for the Disney/ABC Television Group. He replaces both Jim Hedges, the 17-year CFO at ABC, and Jewell Engstrom, the 16-year CFO at Disney Cable. My sources tell me that Seymour may find a job in the new structure for both of them or one of them in the coming weeks. Seymour has been EVP of Strategy and Research for Disney Media Networks since 2008, and I’m told he will retain his oversight of strategy development for the Walt Disney Co’s worldwide broadcasting and cable programming business, as well as his supervision of research, customer relationship management, media planning, and franchise management. His new responsibilities consolidate financial control for the ABC Television Network, ABC Studios, ABC Owned Station Group, Disney Channel, Disney XD, Disney Junior, Disney Domestic Television, ABC Family, Radio Disney and Hyperion Publishing. Mr. Seymour has been Executive Vice President of Strategy and Research for Disney Media Networks since 2008. Anne Sweeney, Co-Chair of Media Networks & President of the Disney/ABC Television Group, will make an announcement about the shake-up soon. Her thought process for consolidating the two jobs into one … Read More »
“We’re breaking down the walls” between different media, ABC Sales President Geri Wang told advertisers at the network’s upfront presentation today. “One deal. One CPM. One guarantee. Every screen. In a world of fragmentation, we offer you aggregation.” The message builds on the efforts by all networks to promote, and get paid for, their audiences on digital plaforms and VOD as well as their traditional broadcasts. “We feel equally passionate about giving you what you want: the best return on your investment,” Disney Media Networks co-chair Anne Sweeney says. The company tried to separate itself from its rivals by noting that its audience is richer, better educated, and more concentrated in major markets. Wang says that as a result of a test with Nielsen “for the very first time we have proof that (our) premium demographics translates into purchasing power.” The company says the results found that viewers of its shows including Modern Family, Revenge, and Castle bought more than competitors such as Two And A Half Men, Bones, and Law & Order: SVU.
Anne Sweeney, president of Disney-ABC Television Group, says that TV is about to become the most personal medium in the world, as well as the most powerful. Giving her MIPCOM keynote speech in Cannes this afternoon, Sweeney predicted that TV will be ever more customized by a generation used to watching on smartphones, laptops and tablets. Sweeney said: “It may be impossible to predict what television will look like 5 or 10 years from now — because the odds are, it will look different to everybody.” She also touched on how young people increasingly tweet, blog and email about shows as they watch them. “The more personalized television gets, the less passive the experience will become,” she said. “Television has always been something you watch. Now, increasingly, it’s also something you do.” The Disney-ABC TV boss presented some eye-popping figures: The global TV audience will reach nearly 4 billion people by the end of 2011 –- roughly half of the world’s population. And those 3.7 billion people will watch a total of 4.5 trillion hours of TV this year. She also underlined TV’s importance by quoting approvingly from a recent Deloitte study that concluded, “In today’s world, TV is the medium around which all others revolve.” Here’s the full transcript of Sweeney’s speech:
From the beginning, the television business has always been forward looking – to the next episode, the next season, the next advance in technology that will change everything and take us to a new level.
That’s why I was drawn to it in the first place…and why I continue to love it.
Read More »
Thousands of TV executives from around the world are en route to Cannes for the annual MIPCOM market, which starts on Monday. The great majority of them, who are flying into the nearby Nice airport, were greeted by a group of Pan Am stewardesses — a promotion for the new ABC/Sony TV series, which will be among the offerings at the confab. (Though most of the sales for the 1960s soap were made after the international screenings in May.) Probably because there is no airport in Cannes, Pan Am stewardesses were stationed at both terminals of the Nice airport, greeting travelers on their way to the annual confab, according to an attendee who snapped a picture. Among the highlights at this year’s MIPCOM: keynote speeches by Disney-ABC’s Anne Sweeney, Fox’s Kevin Reilly, Miramax’s Mike Lang and Viacom International’s Robert Bakish as well as a press conferences with Paul Verhoeven and Ashley Judd.
EXCLUSIVE: Carolina Lightcap has stepped down as president of Disney Channels Worldwide after two years on the job. The channels’ president, Entertainment and Chief Creative Officer Gary Marsh will add her responsibilities to his current ones. His new title will be president and Chief Creative Officer, Disney Channels Worldwide. In his new expanded role, Marsh will have full creative oversight and leadership responsibility for Disney’s global kids TV business comprised of more than 100 entertainment channels and feeds that are available in 169 countries and 35 languages. “We’re sorry that Carolina has decided to leave us and appreciate her many valuable contributions over the years,” said Anne Sweeney, co-chair, Disney Media Networks & President, Disney/ABC Television Group. “Gary Marsh has been the driving creative force behind Disney Channels’ remarkable growth for the past 15 plus years, responsible for some of the most iconic and successful franchises in our history including Hannah Montana, Wizards of Waverly Place, High School Musical, Phineas and Ferb, That’s So Raven, Shake It Up and many others. He not only understands the zeitgeist of kids’ culture, he helped create it. Our business couldn’t be in better hands.” Read More »
Disney/ABC Television Group president and Disney Media Networks co-chairman Anne Sweeney has been chosen to receive the MIPCOM 2011 Personality of the Year award, organizers of the TV content confab announced today, marking the first time a woman has earned the honor. The award will be bestowed during a ceremony Oct. 5 in Cannes; the market runs Oct. 3-6. Sweeney will give a keynote the same day as part of MIPCOM’s Media Mastermind series.
Broadcasting & Cable today published a long interview with Disney/ABC TV Chief Anne Sweeney (subscription required), and here is what’s interesting:
– The “one piece of talent” on the air whom she doesn’t have currently and wants? Why, the Viscount Of Vapidity: “I was just thinking about Ryan Seacrest, but we just had him for New Year’s Eve. He’s a terrific talent. I think he is the hardest working person in television — I have never seen anyone so committed and do such a great job in every single venue. He produces Jamie Oliver for us, he does New Year’s Eve. He’s a great talent.”
– Jimmy Kimmel has “made a tremendous amount of progress in 7 years”.
– ABC can continue to operate the news division without a 24-hour cable component or merging its news operation. “I think there are many different opportunities out there right now, not just for news but for entertainment as well. If you look at what ABC News did when we collaborated during the election with Facebook, that’s a very interesting distribution platform for news. There are many platforms to consider for news, and I think we need to think expansively as a news division going forward and not limit ourselves to thinking of news as just a broadcast and/or cable play.” But Sweeney acknowledges that “we’ll certainly be talking to [Bloomberg] again”.
– There won’t be as much entertainment vs news division head-butting between Ben Sherwood and Paul Lee as there was between … Read More »
ABC News president David Westin is stepping down at the end of the year after 13 years. The move comes after tough 12 months for Westin that included appointing new anchors on all ABC News programs and dealing with severe staff cuts. The personnel changes he oversaw included naming Diane Sawyer as the anchor of World News, George Stephanopoulos as her replacement on Good Morning America, CNN veteran Christiane Amanpour as host of This Week, transitioning Chris Cuomo from GMA to 20/20 and Bill Weir from GMA to Nightline to replace Martin Bashir. Here are the memos from Disney-ABC TV Group president Anne Sweeney and Westin. Read More »
UPDATED: Disney/ABC TV Group president Anne Sweeney once again looked within the company to replace outgoing ABC Family president Paul Lee. A month after tapping Lee to take over ABC and ABC Studios as president of ABC Entertainment Group, she has picked Radio Disney GM Michael Riley as the new president of ABC Family. In addition to Lee’s promotion, Sweeney previously recruited a veteran Disney TV executive, Carolina Lightcap, to succeed Rich Ross as head of Disney Channels Worldwide. Just like Lightcap, Riley does not have domestic cable TV experience but he worked in Turner Broadcasting’s international divisions. I hear Riley impressed Disney/ABC brass with his accomplishments at Turner. Considered a future star executive, he was brought into the company fold and given the job that was available at the moment, heading Disney Radio, with the idea that he would eventually be moved to another position. Sweeney reportedly interviewed both internal and external candidates for the top ABC Family job but Riley’s background and his successful run at Disney radio ultimately sealed the deal for him.”He has good business and creative sense, and he is good at building and shepherding brands,” one insider said. Here is the official announcement: Read More »