ABC Family‘s new president is Tom Ascheim. Ascheim, who has served as EVP and General Manager of Nickelodeon Television and CEO of Newsweek, will start immediately. He succeeds Michael Riley, who announced his departure in September to relocate to the UK. The hire of Ascheim comes after an exhaustive search led by Anne Sweeney, co-chair, Disney Media Networks and president, Disney/ABC Television Group, that included vetting a number of internal Disney candidates (Riley also came from within the company) as well as outside ones. Those considered included Riley’s No. 2, EVP Original Programming and Development and Chief Creative Officer Kate Juergens, though, like she did when Riley’s predecessor Paul Lee left, she is expected to remain focused on the network’s programming as Sweeney reportedly searched for an executive with a strong business background. Ascheim certainly is a surprising choice. He wasn’t on people’s radar and is better known for his rocky tenure as Newsweek CEO than his TV experience. But he was on Sweeney’s radar from working together at Nickelodeon, leading to his dark-horse hire in the top ABC Family position over established TV executives who met for the job. “I knew Tom during my time at Nickelodeon, and always thought he was an incredibly smart, strategic executive,” said Sweeney, to whom Aschem will report. “Since then, he has only reinforced my opinion of his abilities. Whether in print, television, or the financial sector, Tom has gone from success to success.”
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).