ABC, ABC Studios Feeling Urge to Merge?

Dec 9, 2008  •  Post A Comment

With NBC moving to consolidate its network and studio operations, industry insiders are beginning to buzz about the possibility of other potential mergers—and there’s a growing consensus that ABC might be next.
Knowledgeable sources inside Disney and ABC insist that no structural changes are imminent, with one insider even saying that such a change hasn’t even been discussed with top executives at the company. A Disney-ABC spokesman declined comment.
But that hasn’t stopped knowledgeable Hollywood sources from suggesting that Disney is considering a scenario under which ABC and ABC Studios both would report to one executive, likely ABC Entertainment President Steve McPherson. While there’s a chance Disney could maintain separate studio and network development teams, it seems more likely in the current economic environment that the company would try to find cost savings by combining staffs.
It’s not just NBC’s merger that’s fueling the talk of an ABC-ABC Studios consolidation. ABC-ologists are making a big deal out of the fact that ABC Studios President Mark Pedowitz’s contract is up in late February, and the company has not yet announced a renewal. (Of course, it took a long time for Disney to announce a new deal with Mr. McPherson, and he ultimately reupped.)
The delay in Mr. Pedowitz’s deal has led to much talk that Mr. Pedowitz may be talking to Disney ABC TV Group chief Anne Sweeney about a new position within the Disney universe. His business acumen is well-regarded by many in the company, and he and Ms. Sweeney have had a good relationship.
Another piece of the puzzle: The appointment earlier this year of Barry Jossen to the top creative post at ABC Studios under Mr. Pedowitz. If Mr. Pedowitz left ABC Studios, it seems unlikely Mr. Jossen would be ready to take sole control of the studio. But Mr. McPherson and Mr. Jossen are said to have an excellent working relationship, making it easy for many to see the two men working on the same team.
If there were a merger, it wouldn’t be the first time Disney has sought to combine its network and studio operations. The two units were combined in 1999, but ultimately were separated after Mr. McPherson left the studio to run ABC Entertainment.


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