ABC Renews McPherson’s Contract

May 8, 2008  •  Post A Comment

ABC Entertainment President Steve McPherson has signed a new four-year deal with the network, putting to rest months of speculation that he might be getting ready to bolt.
The network issued a press release late Thursday announcing that Mr. McPherson—widely credited with transforming ABC from an also-ran in the ratings to a buzz magnet—has signed on to continue in his current position. The announcement was made by Mr. McPherson’s boss, Disney Media Networks Co-Chair Anne Sweeney.
Details of the contract were not released, and Mr. McPherson declined an interview request. However, a person familiar with the agreement said the new deal includes provisions giving Mr. McPherson plenty of leeway to leave the network if his reporting structure changes in any significant way during the next four years.
That provision protects Mr. McPherson if Ms. Sweeney were to leave her current position or if Disney decided to bring in other executives to serve above or alongside him.
Ms. Sweeney and Mr. McPherson had been talking about a new deal since at least the start of the year, two people familiar with the situation said. Mr. McPherson’s most recent deal quietly expired last month, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.
No one with knowledge of the situation would say whether Mr. McPherson ever came close to leaving the network, or if difficulties negotiating a new contract had led to industry speculation that he planned to depart. While Disney had made it clear months ago that it wanted Mr. McPherson to stay put, it wasn’t until late last week that a final deal was worked out. Mr. McPherson signed the agreement earlier this week.
So far this season, ABC ranks No. 2 among adults 18-49, tied with CBS and behind Fox. The network has five of the 10 highest-rated freshman shows this season among adults 18-49.
While ABC’s ratings—like all the networks—have been hurt this season by the aftershocks from the Writers Guild of America strike, the network has made enormous strides under Mr. McPherson’s watch. During his tenure, ABC has launched a slew of successful series, including “Desperate Housewives,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Lost,” “Dancing with the Stars” and “Brothers & Sisters.” In addition to his skills as a developer, Mr. McPherson has also played an active role in marketing the network’s shows.
Ms. Sweeney was effusive in her praise of Mr. McPherson, calling him “one of the most influential programmers of his generation.”
“Under his leadership ABC has become a prime-time powerhouse,” she said.”His ability to identify talent and develop successful shows is second to none, and that, combined with his marketing savvy, has helped turn ABC Entertainment around.”
Mr. McPherson gave credit to his programming team and said he looked forward to building upon their success.
(Editor: Baumann. Updated 8 p.m. to add length of contract in first paragraph.)


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