Apr 26, 2004  •  Post A Comment

While Anne Sweeney, newly appointed co-chair of Disney’s Media Networks unit, is about to turn much of her attention to ABC, she has prepared a roadmap for Paul Lee to fix The Walt Disney Co.’s other troubled channel, ABC Family.
Mr. Lee left his job as CEO of BBC America to become president of ABC Family. The ABC Family position has been open since last October, when the channel was made a part of Ms. Sweeney’s ABC Cable Networks Group. Soon after the restructuring, ABC Family President Angela Shapiro left the company.
Under Ms. Sweeney, ABC Family developed a new strategic plan and made several personnel changes. Mr. Lee, who declined to comment, is expected to follow that plan and fill several remaining important positions on the channel’s organization chart.
`Today’s Families’
ABC Family’s new target is what it calls “today’s families.” Its programming aims to be contemporary but noncontroversial, giving advertisers a vehicle to reach the MTV generation without worrying about questionable content.
The network will rely heavily on original movies, and Ms. Sweeney has moved oversight of those films to Gary Marsh, executive VP of original programming and productions at the Disney Channel. In addition to movies, ABC Family is developing original series, including scripted and nonscripted shows, comedies and dramas, hours and half-hours.
Mr. Lee does not yet have a start date, but one of his first tasks will be to hire a programming chief. Linda Mancuso, who held that post, died late last year. The network also needs a new marketing chief.
Mr. Lee ran BBC America from its launch in 1998. Before coming to BBC America, Mr. Lee worked at BBC as producer, executive producer and channel editor for BBC Prime, an entertainment channel. Since then the network has grown to 38 million homes.
Jo Petherbridge was appointed acting chief operating officer of BBC America, taking over day-to-day operations of the channel until a successor is appointed for Mr. Lee.