CHICAGO (thefutoncritic.com) -- The Walt Disney Company has announced a major restructuring of its television assets, including changes in the lead roles for ABC, ABC Family and the Disney Channel.
The news comes just four weeks before ABC is scheduled to make its upfront presentation to the advertising community.
Here's a breakdown of all the changes, taken from various press releases:
ANNE SWEENEY, GEORGE BODENHEIMER NAMED CO-CHAIRS OF DISNEY'S MEDIA NETWORKS UNIT
Sweeney Also Named President, Disney-ABC Television; Bodenheimer Remains President, ESPN, Inc. and ABC Sports
Stephen McPherson Named President, ABC Primetime Entertainment; Rich Ross Named President, Disney Channel Worldwide; Paul Lee Named President, ABC Family; Mark Pedowitz Named President, Touchstone Television and Executive Vice President, ABC Entertainment Television Group
In a restructuring of The Walt Disney Company's television assets, Anne Sweeney and George Bodenheimer have been named co-chairs of Disney's Media Networks unit, Disney President and COO Robert Iger announced today. Sweeney will be adding the ABC Television Network, which includes ABC Entertainment, ABC Daytime, ABC News and Touchstone Television to her portfolio of responsibilities, while Bodenheimer will remain head of ESPN, Inc. and ABC Sports, and both will continue to report to Iger.
Sweeney will retain all of her current areas with day-to-day responsibility for Disney Channel Worldwide to be handled by Rich Ross, who assumes the title today. Paul Lee joins the company as president of ABC Family. Both executives will report to Sweeney.
In announcing Sweeney's promotion, Iger said: "Anne is recognized throughout the entertainment industry as one of the most strategic, forward-thinking and creative executives in the business today. At ABC Cable Networks Group, her impressive business acumen and track-record, particularly in growing Disney Channel from a modest pay channel into a basic cable service with more than 84 million subscribers, have proven her strength as a long-term strategist with a focus on quality programming and financial performance. We are confident that Anne's outstanding creativity, management style and leadership abilities will be invaluable to the ABC Television Network."
"Under this new structure, the combined strength of the creative content and resources in both cable and broadcast television will allow Disney to build on its reputation as a leading provider of world-class, high quality entertainment, news and sports programming," Sweeney said. "The ABC Television Network is an incredibly important and valuable asset for Disney and is a leader in daytime entertainment, sports and news programming, and I look forward to working with the great team there as we return ABC to its leadership position in primetime."
As part of the restructuring, Stephen McPherson, currently president of Touchstone Television, has been named president, ABC Primetime Entertainment and is responsible for primetime entertainment programming. Mark Pedowitz was named president, Touchstone Television and executive vice president, ABC Entertainment Television Group. McPherson and Pedowitz will report to Sweeney.
In the new structure, Alex Wallau was named president, ABC Network Operations and Administration, a role that will include oversight for news, BO&E, ad sales, affiliate relations and the integration of ABC Sports with the ABC TV Network. Brian Frons will remain president of ABC Daytime. Both will report to Sweeney.
Lloyd Braun, chairman, ABC Entertainment Television Group, and Susan Lyne, president of ABC Entertainment Television, have left the company and are pursuing other interests.
Sweeney was named president of the ABC Cable Networks Group and president of Disney Channel Worldwide in 1998, after serving as president, Disney Channel, and executive vice president, Disney/ABC Cable Networks since February 1996. As president of Disney Channel, Sweeney headed one of the fastest growing networks in cable, the only full-time general entertainment television network designed for kids and families.
Under her leadership, Disney Channel grew its subscriber base from 14 million to more than 84 million homes with its mix of kid and family entertainment. In April 1998, Sweeney oversaw the successful launch of the all-animation channel Toon Disney, and in January 2000 she oversaw the launch of SOAPnet.
Sweeney joined the company from FX Networks, Inc. where she hadbeen chairman and chief executive officer since 1993. During her tenure at FX, Sweeney presided over the launch of two basic cable networks: FX, an entertainment network representing the most successful basic cable launch in history; and FXM: Movies from Fox, Hollywood's first studio-based movie network. Prior to joining Fox in 1993, Sweeney spent 12 years at Nickelodeon/Nick at Nite in a variety of positions, including the international expansion of Nickelodeon in the United Kingdom, resulting in a joint venture with British Sky Broadcasting.
Sweeney is a member of the Board of Directors for Special Olympics International. She received a B.A. degree from The College of New Rochelle and an Ed.M. degree from Harvard University.
Sweeney and her husband, Philip Miller, an attorney, and their two children reside in Los Angeles.
STEPHEN MCPHERSON NAMED PRESIDENT, ABC PRIMETIME ENTERTAINMENT
As part of a broad restructuring of The Walt Disney Company's television assets, Stephen McPherson, former president of Touchstone Television, has been named president, ABC Primetime Entertainment, it was announced today by Anne Sweeney, co-chair, Disney's Media Networks Unit and president, Disney-ABC Television. In this capacity, McPherson will have oversight of all development, current programming, marketing and scheduling for the primetime division of the ABC Television Network. He will report to Sweeney.
In making the announcement, Sweeney said, "Steve has had an unparalleled track record of creative success over the past several years as head of Touchstone Television. His ability to identify and shepherd programming through all stages of development makes him uniquely qualified for this opportunity."
As president of Touchstone Television, a role he assumed in June of 2001, McPherson oversaw a renaissance at the production company, with the past two development seasons (2002-03 and 2003-04) being the most successful in the 19-year history of the studio. During his tenure, he was responsible for all day-to-day operations of the studio, including the development and production of the division's network primetime series, specials and films.
Current Touchstone comedy series include "8 Simple Rules," "According to Jim," "Hope & Faith," "My Wife and Kids," "It's All Relative," "Life with Bonnie," "Less than Perfect" and "Scrubs." Touchstone-produced dramas include the critically-acclaimed "Alias," "Line of Fire" and "Stephen King's Kingdom Hospital."
Touchstone also produces (with Bruckheimer Films and CBS Productions) the popular CBS reality show, "The Amazing Race," which was recently picked up for a fifth installment. Additionally, Touchstone developed USA Cable Network's award-winning drama series, "Monk," and the studio is also a producer on the late-night talk show "Jimmy Kimmel Live."
Over the past few seasons, McPherson has also supervised production of the critically-acclaimed series "Felicity," "Once and Again," "The Job," "Sports Night," "Gideon's Crossing" and "Popular," just to name a few.
Prior to joining Touchstone Television, McPherson was vice president, Primetime Series at NBC, where he oversaw the development and production of such shows as "Just Shoot Me," "NewsRadio" and "The Pretender."
Before joining NBC, McPherson was senior vice president, Creative Affairs of ABC Productions, where he supervised both comedy and drama series, including "My So Called Life" and "The Commish." He also served as director, Current Programming for FOX, where he helped launch "Martin" and "The Ben Stiller Show." He began his industry career as director of development for Witt-Thomas-Harris Productions. McPherson is a graduate of Cornell University (1986), where he received a BA in Political Science.
RICH ROSS PROMOTED TO PRESIDENT, DISNEY CHANNEL WORLDWIDE
Rich Ross has been named president, Disney Channel Worldwide, it was announced today by Anne Sweeney, newly named co-chairman, Media Networks, The Walt Disney Company, and president, Disney ABC Television, to whom Ross reports.
In his new role, Ross is responsible for day to day management of The Walt Disney Company's wholly-owned basic cable channels for kids and families, Disney Channel and Toon Disney in the United States, and 22 international Disney Channels, including three Playhouse Disney Channels and three Toon Disney Channels in the United Kingdom, France and Spain; Disney-branded programming blocks in 51 countries reaching 600 million television viewers worldwide; the Company's majority interest in over a dozen JETIX channels (transitioning from the name FOX Kids Europe and Latin America) and JETIX-branded programming (formerly FOX Kids-branded), distributed to 119 terrestrial, cable and satellite broadcasters operating in over 50 countries across Europe and the Middle East.
Anne Sweeney said: "Rich is an exemplary executive who has led the Disney Channel team to an all-time high in ratings with preschoolers, kids and families, and has increased the overall value of the channel for our cable partners. He consistently puts an emphasis on smart strategy and teamwork, and has proven that we can deliver top quality programming for our viewers and profitable franchises for our partners throughout the Company. I look forward to his continued leadership and tremendous contribution across a wider area of our business."
Ross joined Disney Channel 1996 as senior vice president, Programming and Production, and was named president in 2002. In his most recent position, he oversaw all programming, production and marketing for Disney Channel. Under his leadership, Ross expanded the network's original programming offerings to include such hit shows as "Lizzie McGuire," "That's So Raven," "Disney's Kim Possible" and "The Proud Family." He also oversaw the creation of Disney Channel's critically acclaimed learning-based programming block for preschoolers, Playhouse Disney, which includes "Stanley," the Emmy-award winning "Rolie Polie Olie" and "JoJo's Circus," and has since become the centerpiece for Disney's company-wide initiative to introduce preschoolers to Disney characters, programs and products through learning-based entertainment.
In 2003, Disney Channel was the no. 1-rated basic cable network in primetime with Kids 6-14 and tied for no. 2 in Households and Total Viewers. In total day measurement, Disney Channel was no. 2 in Kids 6-11, no. 1 in Tweens 9-14, and tied for no. 2 in Households and Total Viewers. Over the past two seasons, Disney Channel's ratings for kids 6-11 have increased 64%, and this season boys 6-11 are up 67%.
Prior to his tenure at Disney Channel, Ross was senior vice president, Development and Production for FX Networks from 1993-96, where he was a member of the executive team that launched the cable network.
Before joining FX Networks, he was at Nickelodeon from 1986-93, where he most recently served as vice president of Program Enterprises and was involved in all original-programming deals, including those for co-production. In addition Ross launched "Nick News" with Linda Ellerbee into syndication, Nickelodeon's first syndication success. He was also part of the launch team for Nickelodeon's first international network, Nickelodeon UK.
Ross is a member of the Board of Directors of Cable in the Classroom, an organization that represents the cable telecommunications industry's commitment to education. He will continue to be based in the Burbank, California headquarters of ABC Cable Networks Group.
A native of New York, Ross is a 1983 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania with a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Relations and English. He received his J.D. degree from New York's Fordham University in 1986. H resides in Los Angeles.
PAUL LEE NAMED PRESIDENT, ABC FAMILY
Paul Lee has been named president, ABC Family, it was announced today by Anne Sweeney, newly named co-chairman Media Networks, The Walt Disney Company, and president, Disney ABC Television, to whom he will report. As president, Lee will be responsible for oversight of the channel's programming, operations and creative direction.
In announcing Lee's appointment, Anne Sweeney said: "Paul is the perfect candidate to build ABC Family into a successful family-focused entertainment channel that bridges the niche of the kid-driven, family inclusive Disney Channel and the broad base of the ABC Television Network."
Lee said: "I'm very excited to take on this role and to join one of the world's top entertainment companies. I plan to continue the development of ABC Family into a strong brand within The Walt Disney Company portfolio, providing programming that reflects the comedy and drama of today's families."
Lee, chief executive officer of BBC America, has been leading the company since its launch, starting as general manager and chief operating officer. Most recently, the hit comedy series "The Office" garnered two Golden Globes. Other shows under his supervision included the BBC's "Changing Rooms," which formatted into TLC's signature show, "Trading Spaces," and the BBC version of "What Not to Wear." BBC America, since its initial launch in 1998, has grown to 38 million homes.
Prior to heading BBC America, Lee spent several years at BBC, serving as the producer, executive producer and then channel editor for BBC Prime, the company's 24-hour entertainment channel. He also spent some time making documentaries for BBC News. Before joining BBC in 1984, he worked as a production manager at the Brazilian network Rede Globo in Rio de Janeiro.
Lee holds an MA in Modern Languages from Oxford University in England. He will relocate to Los Angeles with his wife and two sons.