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ABC Family Seeks Programmer

Feb 23, 2004  •  Post A Comment

ABC Cable Networks Group President Anne Sweeney plans to fill the top programming job at ABC Family from outside The Walt Disney Co.
The hire is part of a plan to clean house at the channel, which lost its president, Angela Shapiro, after ABC Family was made part of Ms. Sweeney’s division in October. ABC Family’s senior VP and head of programming, Linda Mancuso, died of cancer in December.
The new channel’s management will be modeled after that of the Disney Channel. Executives responsible for original entertainment and marketing will report to the president of entertainment.
After Ms. Mancuso’s death, Ms. Sweeney hired executive search firm Carlsen Resources.
There is no shortage of candidates interested in the job of president of entertainment-despite Comcast’s takeover bid for the channel’s parent, The Walt Disney Co.-according to Ms. Sweeney. She had interviewed 12 candidates as of last week and had brought four back for second interviews. More candidates may be interviewed, Ms. Sweeney said in New York last week during a reception for the new Jetix action-adventure block on ABC Family and Toon Disney.
Ms. Sweeney said she hopes to have a top executive in place by the time the network conducts upfront meetings with advertisers next month.
During the upfront meetings, Ms. Sweeney and the new chief programmer will lay out the new strategic direction for ABC Family, Ms. Sweeney said. That strategic direction has already been approved and is supported by top Disney management, including CEO Michael Eisner, she said.
Shortly after Disney acquired it for $5 billion, ABC Family became home to a number of repurposed ABC programs. Ms. Sweeney said that being a second home for ABC shows was not “a big enough idea” and would not be an important part of the ABC Family plan. Instead, the channel will embrace the “Family” part of its name, though she declined to go into detail.
Some Disney insiders said Rich Ross, president of entertainment at the surging Disney Channel and one of Ms. Sweeney’s top executives, was her top choice to run ABC Family. But Mr. Ross apparently turned down the job. “I have the best job in television,” said Mr. Ross, who was also at the Jetix event.
As part of the ABC Cable Networks Group, ABC Family will share some functions with the other channels in the group. Last week, Disney Channel executives Gary Marsh and Michael Healy were given oversight of ABC Family film projects.