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ABC Daytime President Brian Frons Exits, Network Consolidates Daytime & Syndie Development In New Division

By | Friday December 2, 2011 @ 11:41am PST
Nellie Andreeva

ABC Daytime president Brian Frons, a primary target of soap fans angry over the cancellation of the network’s veteran daytime dramas All My Children and One Life To Live, will depart ABC after the end of his contract in January, which coincides with the end of OLTL. The Disney/ABC Television Group will consolidate the development and current programming for daytime and syndication with the formation of Times Square Studios, a new division that will be added to the portfolio of ABC Entertainment Group president Paul Lee. It will be run by Vicki Dummer, SVP Current Series & Specials at ABC Entertainment Group, who will be promoted to EVP Times Square Studios, Current Series & Specials. She will also keep her existing responsibilities of head of current for ABC and will continue to report to Lee. (Frons used to report to Disney-ABC TV Group president Anne Sweeney.) With her background as a long-time ABC reality executive and co-head of the unscripted department, Dummer is a suitable choice to lead Times Square Studios as the division will focus its development in the areas of non-scripted lifestyle and health (no more soaps!). The current series that will be folded in the new division going forward include ABC Daytime fare The View, General Hospital, The Chew and the upcoming The RevolutionRead More »

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HRTS: Broadcast Network Chiefs Reflect On ‘Crazy’ Pitch Season

Nellie Andreeva

We are at the tail end of a TV selling season that saw more bidding wars and production and put pilot commitments than I can remember, and that isn’t lost on the broadcast entertainment presidents. Survivor‘s Jeff Probst opened the discussion at the annual Hollywood Radio & Television Society network chiefs luncheon today by sharing that during his lunch with the executives before they took the stage, everyone was complaining about how crazy and out of whack this pitch season has been. Fox’s Kevin Reilly, who spoke his mind more than anyone else on the panel, quickly jumped in. “(NBC) got cash, (ABC) got competitive against that cash, and we took the bait,” is how Reilly summed up this year’s marketplace. “We all think we were played a little bit. Agents are doing very well this year as a result.” Reilly’s counterparts mostly agreed, though their responses were more measured. “It’s been very, very frantic this year,” CBS’ Nina Tassler said. She blamed media coverage for the increased intensity of the pitch season. “Every single thing that happens is now being reported, from a pitch to speculation on the terms of a deal, and that does absolutely impact the business.” Added NBC’s Jennifer Salke: “I get the email about a media inquiry while the producer is still in the parking lot. That adds to the frenzy.” But it wasn’t all bad this buying season, ABC’s Paul Lee said. “There was also a rush of new energy, with a lot of new people and new ideas; there was lot of ambition in the projects coming in,” he said. Read More »

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TCA: Cross-Dressing Comedy ‘Work It’ Steals Spotlight At ABC’s Executive Session

Nellie Andreeva

At the end of ABC’s TCA executive panel, president Paul Lee admitted that he had asked a network PR executive beforehand, “Shall I go out in a dress?” That probably would’ve been appropriate given that ABC’s new cross-dressing comedy Work It, which has not even been scheduled yet, emerged as the main attraction at the Q&A session even somewhat overshadowing the official announcement of Desperate Housewives coming to an end. The first mention of the Bosom Buddies-esque multi-camera comedy starring Ben Koldyke and Amaury Nolasco as out-of-work car salesmen who dress as women to get jobs as pharmaceutical reps came when Lee was asked to discuss the network’s new crop of comedies. When he got to Work It, the British-born Lee said, “I’m a Brit, it is in my contract that I have to do one cross-dressing show a year; I was brought up on Monty Python. What can I do?” Later on he was asked about a trend of many new shows featuring central characters who are orphans that harkens back to Victorian times and Charles Dickens. Admitting that he didn’t notice an orphan pattern in picking up series, Lee noted, “We don’t sit there and think, ‘Work It! That goes all the way back to Shakespeare!’ ” Read More »

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TCA: Paul Lee & Marc Cherry On Ending ‘Housewives’: It’s About Going Out Classy

Nellie Andreeva

EXCLUSIVE: ABC Will End ‘Desperate Housewives’ In May 2012 After 8th Season
This morning ABC officially announced what Deadline readers already knew: that this coming season will be the last for veteran Desperate Housewives, which, along with Lost, turned ABC’s fortunes around in the fall of 2004. “It is an iconic show; we are so proud of it,” ABC entertainment president Paul Lee said. “I just wanted to make sure that the show that put the network on the map had its victory lap and had a chance to build a great final arc.” Lee was then joined by Desperate Housewives creator Marc Cherry. “I think the only thing harder than creating a hit show is to know when to end it,” he said. “It’s something that has weighed on my mind for some time. I’m well aware of people who have overstayed their welcome, and I just didn’t want that to happen to us. I wanted to go out while the network still thought it was a viable series and while it still did well in the ratings; I wanted to go out in the classiest way possible.”

According to the network’s press release, the upcoming “Season Eight of Desperate Housewives will roll out in a way that is accessible even to viewers who may have lapsed in their viewing, and be all the richer and more rewarding to the series’ loyal fans.” Cherry elaborated that the “mystery of what’s going on in the final season harkens back to the first season,” to “the roots of the Mary Alice mystery,” which kicked off the series seven years ago. “It feels right that that would be the storyline that would take us out.” As a result, I hear that Brenda Strong, who narrates the series as Mary Alice but has only made a handful of appearances on the show, may get more screen time this season. Asked whether Nicollette Sheridan’s character Edie Britt will make a return, Cherry, who is being sued by the actress over her termination from the show, made a pause before responding, “I don’t know how I would do that, but I have an idea for the last episode where I want to pay homage to everyone who has been on the show.” Read More »

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Paul Lee Makes Executive Changes: John Saade To Head Alternative, Vicki Dummer To Run Current, Patrick Moran Upped At Studio

By | Friday June 17, 2011 @ 12:15pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

ABC Entertainment Group president Paul Lee has made his expected post-upfront move, reshuffling the executive teams at the network and the studio, with promotions/new roles for John Saade, Vicki Dummer, Patrick Moran, Amy Hartwick and Lynn Barrie.

After months of speculations that Lee won’t keep ABC’s dual leadership structure of the alternative department with the contracts of co-heads John Saade and Vicki Dummer coming up, Lee is indeed going go for a single head of the department. But unlike the last summer changes in the marketing department where one of the co-heads, Mike Benson, stepped down, both Saade and Dummer will be staying at ABC. John Saade, former SVP Alternative Series and Specials & Late-Night, is being promoted to EVP Alternative Series & Late Night Programming, overseeing solo all of ABC’s primetime alternative/reality series and Jimmy Kimmel Live. This is the title Saade and Dummer’s predecessor Andrea Wong held before leaving for Lifetime. Read More »

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Final Thoughts On The Broadcast Upfronts: Wind Of Change

Nellie Andreeva

Exactly 20 years ago, German rock band Scorpions released Wind of Change, which became an anthem for our generation of young Eastern Europeans going through a dramatic political change: the fall of communism. Coming back from the broadcast upfront presentations in New York last week, I’ve been having a hard time getting the catchy tune out of my head. While less far-reaching and profound, there is a clear sense of changing of the guard and a new direction for the broadcast networks this year. I can’t remember a time where the majority of the networks had new heads at their upfront presentations. Paul Lee took over for Steve McPherson at ABC, Bob Greenblatt for Jeff Gaspin and Angela Bromstad at NBC, and Mark Pedowitz is succeeding Dawn Ostroff at the CW. There is a similar changing of the guard among the top TV producers this year. Upstart Chernin Entertainment and DreamWorks TV, which is re-entering the broadcast arena, topped the pods with the most new series, three each, with another recently launched company, Aaron Kaplan’s Kapital Entertainment, scoring two new shows. And in its first season, Marty Adelstein and Shawn Levy’s 21 Laps/Adelstein one pilot, Tim Allen’s Last Man Standing, picked up to pilot, with another, Fox’s Family Album, in serious contention. Meanwhile, such longtime upfront fixtures as Jerry Bruckheimer TV, Mark Gordon Co. and Wonderland didn’t land any new series for next season. Read More »

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Upfronts: Live-Blogging ABC Presentation

Nellie Andreeva

ABC Unveils 2011-12 Schedule: New Comedy Block On Tuesday With Tim Allen

When he took the stage for his first ABC upfront presentation, the network’s new president Paul Lee was quick to bring up the event’s main attraction. “When Anne Sweeney called me about this job, I asked myself, ‘Do I really want to be humiliated by Jimmy Kimmel in front of hundreds of people?’ The answer was: ‘Absolutely’ ”

Right away, Lee, who was visibly nervous, branded the network’s new lineup “pure entertainment,” so he began presenting ABC’s fall schedule with Thursday night, showcasing new 8 PM anchor Charlie’s Angels. “I’ve wanted to remake Charlie’s Angels since I was 14,” Lee said. He explained the decision to schedule the remake Thursdays at 8 PM with the fact that it will be the only scripted drama in the slot (besides CW).

Tim Allen was on hand to promote his new ABC comedy Last Man Standing. “It’s about a man in a women’s world. Its original name was The Paul Lee Story.” That was not the only jab at his new boss. “You can dump the accent, you got the job,” he told British-born Lee.

After the clip for ABC’s new cross-dressing comedy Work It, Lee justified his decision to pick up the show with, “So sue me, I’m a Brit,” segueing to “Talking about cross-dressing, here’s Jimmy Kimmel.”

Kimmel was his usual irreverent self. Here are some of his top barbs: Read More »

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The Striking Similarities Between Greenblatt & Lee’s New Series Picks: Female Shows, Fairy Tale & 1960s Dramas, Lotsa Comedies

By | Saturday May 14, 2011 @ 4:38pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

They’re both about to take the stage for their first upfront presentations as broadcast network chiefs. But NBC chairman Bob Greenblatt and ABC president Paul Lee share a lot more similarities in their first pilot seasons, especially in their new series choices.

Both opted to go with a predominantly female-skewing drama slate, a change in direction for both networks. Last year, the most heavily touted new drama series at NBC’s upfront presentation was the male-friendly sci-fi thriller The Event. This time, that honor will likely go to the Broadway-themed and heavily female-skewing Smash, with another high-profile new drama, Playboy Club, also testing predominantly female. Last year, Lee’s predecessor Steve McPherson bet on the superhero drama No Ordinary Family and male cop procedural Detroit 1-8-7. Now Lee is going with female hero action series Charlie’s Angeles and female soaps like Good Christian Belles and Revenge. (While passing on several male-oriented drama pilots such as sci-fi cop show 17th Precinct, Western Reconstruction and crime/political saga Metro, NBC picked up one male-friendly new series, the Inception-style Awake, while ABC passed on Poe and Identity to order only one new drama with a male lead, The River, but it is in the horror genre that strongly appeals to women.)

Also, both Greenblatt and Lee picked up drama series set in the 1960s and built around an iconic brand with NBC’s The Playboy Club and ABC’s Pan Am. What are the odds of two such shows hitting the broadcast networks’ schedules at the same time?! But there is more: both Greenblatt and Lee also picked up dramas that exploit fairy tales by the brothers Grimm, NBC’s Grimm and ABC’s Once Upon a Time which features such classic brothers Grimm characters as Snow White and Prince Charming. Both Greenblatt and Lee ordered remakes of famous TV series, Prime Suspect and Charlie’s Angels, respectively, as well as character-driven dramas with a female lead played by a well known movie actress – Prime Suspect with Maria Bello and Scandal with Karry Washington. Moreover, neither of them picked up a straight procedural, with Lee passing on both Identity and Partners, while the closest Greenblatt got to one was the very character-driven Prime Suspect. Greenblatt and Lee also were the only network chiefs to order pilots featuring musical numbers, Smash and ABC’s Grace, though the latter didn’t make the schedule. Read More »

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ABC’s EVP Suzanne Patmore-Gibbs Exits

By | Friday March 25, 2011 @ 11:40am PDT
Nellie Andreeva

EXCLUSIVE: Suzanne Patmore-Gibbs, EVP scripted creative for the ABC Entertainment Group, is leaving the company. The decision was made by ABC Entertainment Group president Paul Lee, who is eliminating the position as part of his effort to be more closely connected to the creative process. It mirrors the setup on the unscripted side where the co-heads of ABC’s alternative department John Saade and Vicki Dummer report directly to Lee.

Since 2007, Patmore-Gibbs had overseen ABC’s scripted operations (development and current) as well as the network’s longform division. The ABC’s comedy and drama departments headed by Samie Kim Falvey and Channing Dungey, respectively, will now report to Lee the way the alternative group does.

The move is similar to the recent restructuring at Fox where the EVP programming position held by Matt Cherniss is being eliminated following his pending departure, with the comedy and drama department heads reporting to entertainment president Kevin Reilly.

Patmore-Gibbs has been at Disney-ABC since 2000 when she joined Touchstone TV as VP drama series. She then served as SVP drama for the studio before heading the drama development department at ABC for 3 years and getting elevated to EVP.

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Greg Berlanti Back At Warner Bros. Television With Mega Deal

Nellie Andreeva

EXCLUSIVE: After 5 years at ABC Studios, Greg Berlanti is returning to Warner Bros. TV. The top showrunner has signed a four-year overall deal with Warner Bros. TV of the scale of the studio’s top-tier pacts with such writer-producers as Chuck Lorre, J.J. Abrams and Bill Lawrence. Berlanti’s eight-figure deal with the studio starts on June 1.

Berlanti is almost 3 years into a five-year deal at ABC Studios. He originally joined ABC Studios in the spring of 2006 and inked his current five-year deal in July 2008. In the past four-and-a-half years, he guided Brothers & Sisters from a troubled pilot in need of a reshoot to a successful series, now in its fifth season. He ran Brothers & Sisters for the first season and has continued to serve as an executive producer. He also developed and executive produced 3 pilots for ABC, all of which went to series: Eli Stone, which he co-wrote,  Dirty Sexy Money and this year’s freshman No Ordinary Family, which he also co-created.

But a lot has changed since Berlanti last renewed his vows with ABC Studios. His feature career took off, making him juggle TV producing with writing or directing movies. His ABC Studios deal had a provision allowing him to do that but I hear that his film obligations had created tension at ABC, in part because Berlanti’s feature business has been for an outside studio, Warner Bros. Berlanti, in turn, reportedly dreaded telling … Read More »

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Paul Lee: Network TV Is Risky Business

By | Monday January 10, 2011 @ 2:55pm PST
Nellie Andreeva

Paul Lee is going to take creative risks, and he is going to empower showrunners, the new ABC president said during the network’s portion of TCA today where he also defined the ABC brand as he sees it: “a smart network with a huge amount of heart and culturally defining shows”

“My real ambition is to make ABC Studios and ABC a real showrunner culture,” Lee said, stressing the fact that he is an ex-showrunner himself.  “From my perspective, the ability to allow showrunners to take risks, and for us to give them the air support that they can do that, is one of the most important parts of my job… So from my perspective, that combination between a potent brand and empowered showrunners can really give us a chance to succeed going forward into the future.”

Early in the morning, ABC announced the early renewal of 6 series, Modern Family, The Middle, Cougar Town, Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice and Castle. Lee said he wasn’t concerned by the big ratings dropoff for Cougar Town after Modern Family, stressing that the sophomore comedy starring Courteney Cox “has found its voice.”

Unlike the same time last year when Modern Family, The Middle and Cougar Town were handed early renewals, today’s pickup announcement didn’t include any freshman shows, which have largely underperformed. Two first-year shows received praise from Lee. He called Detroit 1-8-7, “a gritty, brilliantly written show which we’re very proud of”, a “very, very high-quality show” that “gets better” and Better with You “a really funny show.” But Lee said he doesn’t expect the network to make any decisions on the future of its freshman shows “for two to three months.” Read More »

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ABC Developing 8-Hour ‘Wicked’ Miniseries Produced by Salma Hayek

By | Sunday January 9, 2011 @ 4:23pm PST
Nellie Andreeva

ABC is looking to get back in the event mini-series business with Wicked, an eight-hour mini-series produced by Salma Hayek, TVLine‘s Michael Ausiello reports. The project is not based on the highly-successful Broadway musical but on Gregory McGuire’s bestselling book that spawned it. Despite a long tradition of TV musicals like Cinderella, Annie and The Music Man at ABC that flourished under Susan Lyne as head of TV movies and mini-series and then entertainment president, the genre disappeared from the network under Lyne’s successor Stephen McPherson. In fact, McPherson passed on the Wicked mini-series a couple of year ago, a decision that was reversed by new ABC president Paul Lee. Wicked, which is in active development, is being produced by ABC Studios and Hayek and Jose Tamez’s studio-based Ventanarosa Prods. Erik Jendersen (Band of Brothers) is writing the script. For now, there are no plans for Hayek to star. Coincidentally, ABC and ABC Studios are developing a comedy musical series starring Idina Menzel, who originated the role of Elphaba in the Wicked Broadway musical, winning a Tony for the part. The musical, perennial top Broadway grosser that premiered in 2003, is currently being developed as a feature.

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HRTS Network Chiefs Lunch: A Star Is Born

Nellie Andreeva

ABC’s new chief Paul Lee charmed a room full of industry types at the Hollywood Radio and TV Society’s network chiefs luncheon today, which was otherwise pretty uneventful. Three months into the job, he looked confident and relaxed, stretching his legs for most of the time, interjecting with witty zingers and cracking jokes throughout the panel discussion moderated by HRTS and Lionsgate TV president Kevin Beggs. ”We used to strike when they moved the tea break at the BBC,” Brit Lee quipped when the subject of a potential new WGA strike came up. In terms of ABC programming, Lee didn’t deny the rumor that he might be looking to revive TGIF on ABC. (He recently did a trial run with a younger-skewing family comedy at ABC Family, Melissa & Joey). “I certainly think that Friday night is a huge opportunity,” Lee said. He also alluded that ABC may test some of its marketing campaigns on Facebook before forking out millions to roll them out.

Also pretty entertaining was Fox’s Kevin Reilly, who was asked about the challenges of doing a series for broadcast vs. cable where FCC regulations don’t apply. “It is frustrating sometimes,” he said. “On cable, we would’ve been able to have the guys on Lone Star take off their clothes, the show would’ve pulled 1.3 million viewers and we would’ve declared it a hit because that’s what Mad Read More »

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ABC Marketing Co-Head Steps Down

By | Friday September 10, 2010 @ 1:12pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

New ABC Entertainment Group president Paul Lee has made his first executive move. EVP marketing Mike Benson is stepping down, leaving fellow EVP Marla Provencio as the sole head of the network’s marketing department. Lee is said to be looking to go in a new direction with the network’s marketing strategy. Benson and Provencio were named EVPs marketing for the ABC Entertainment Group in June 2009, overseeing together all marketing for ABC’s primetime and late-night programs. Benson joined ABC Entertainment in 1998 as SVP advertising and promotion. The move comes as ABC is wrapping up its fall launch marketing campaign designed to support the network’s seven new fall series.

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Michael Riley Named ABC Family President

Nellie Andreeva

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 »

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RATINGS RAT RACE: Strong Demo Debut For ABC Family’s ‘Melissa & Joey’, Series Highs for USA Network’s ‘Covert Affairs’

Nellie Andreeva

Paul Lee’s tenure at ABC Family is ending on a high note. The last new series ordered under the former ABC Family president and current ABC Entertainment Group president, comedy Melissa & Joey, premiered last night as ABC Family’s biggest ever series debut among adults 18-49, 1.3 million. Melissa & Joey drew 2.2 million viewers overall, No.6 among all ABC Family series premieres and the most watched comedy series debut ever for the cable network.

Meanwhile, USA’s freshman Covert Affairs sealed its renewal by hitting series highs across the board last night, including total viewers (5.4 million, up 4% from last week), adults 18-49 (2.3 million, up 15%). Its lead-in, sophomore White Collar was also up, posting best total viewer and 18-49 numbers since its winter premiere (4.5 million, up 12%, 1.9 million, up 33%)

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TCA: New ABC Chief Paul Lee Makes Debut

Nellie Andreeva

For a guy who confessed that as a Brit he is way too self-conscious to dance, new ABC Family Entertainment Group president Paul Lee did a pretty good job tap dancing around the controversial issues surrounding the departure of his predecessor Stephen McPherson. Facing the press and TV critics 36 hours after being officially appointed to the job, Lee looked confident, and the sleeves of his plaid shirt were symbolically rolled up. There will be no changes to ABC’s fall launch plans, Lee said. “We’re locked and loaded. If you  make last-minute changes, you can make more damages than good. Nor is he planning to emulate ABC Family’s focus on “millennials” by making ABC skew younger. ”This is a core 18-to-49 channel,” he emphasized. Mostly Lee stuck to his talking pointsy, and, in his answers played up his status as an outsider. He also kept reverting to his previous experiences running BBC America and ABC Family and working as showrunner in the UK – rather than discussing his plans for ABC.

“There are a lot more people here than when we were trying to launch Wildfire on ABC Family,” Lee quipped as he was taking his seat on stage. He opened with a thank-you to the critics for their support through the years (smooth move). And a disclaimer. “I’m super unprepared, being in this job for 36 hours, so I apologize in advance if I don’t have all the answers.” He hardly had any. Lee’s comment on his boss, Anne … Read More »

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TOLDJA! Disney Names ABC Family’s Paul Lee To ABC Entertainment Group President

The Network Builder: Former War Reporter Paul Lee
ABC Family’s Paul Lee Taking Over ABC Entertainment Group

Burbank, CA – Anne Sweeney, Co-Chairman Disney/ABC Media Networks and President, Disney/ABC Television Group today announced today that former ABC Family President Paul Lee has been named President, ABC Entertainment Group, effective immediately.

In his new role with the ABC Entertainment Group, Lee has oversight of all creative and business operations for ABC Studios, as well as all development, programming, marketing and scheduling operations for ABC Entertainment.

In discussing the announcement, Sweeney stated: “Paul was hired six years ago because of his great creative instincts and his ability to identify an audience and develop programming that resonates with them, and those same strengths are why he was tapped for this new responsibility. Paul’s success at ABC Family is as amazing as it is indisputable, and I’m looking forward to his continued success on ABC.”

Lee added: “I’m proud of everything we achieved at ABC Family, and I’m looking forward to working with another great team at ABC Entertainment Group to bring even more compelling stories to viewers. ABC is a great network defined by creativity and known for delivering some of the best shows on television. I’m excited to be part of

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The Network Builder: Former War Reporter Paul Lee Goes For a Three-peat At ABC

Nellie Andreeva

There is one element in Paul Lee’s background that in my opinion makes him well equipped for his new job as ABC Entertainment Group president. It’s not his 6-year tenure as president of ABC Family, he will find soon enough that broadcast TV is a whole new ball game. It’s not his degree from Oxford either, it is probably too highbrow for the populist nature of U.S. broadcast TV. It is Lee’s very first job out of college as a BBC reporter stationed in Belfast, Northern Ireland, covering the conflict during a particularly critical period. If he wasn’t afraid to step into a real-life crossfire, he probably won’t be intimidated by facing critics and reporters at TCA on Sunday or tough talent negotiations and difficult decisions at ABC in the future.

Lee, who turned 50 a couple of weeks ago, is asked to build a third consecutive TV network almost from scratch. He launched BBC America and put the channel on the map with such series as the British version of The Office and Changing Rooms, both of which were successfully remade by U.S. networks, NBC and TLC (Trading Spaces). Then at ABC Family, he inherited a neglected channel whose purchase had been deemed one of the worst business deals in TV history that was stuffed with repurposed ABC shows, no original series and a dying original movie franchise. He rebuilt the channel with a demo-focused original fare like The Secret Life of the American Read More »

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