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Shake-up at ABC

#1 User is offline   BDANtheman29 

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Posted 09 April 2004 - 05:27 PM

Shake-up at ABC
Network expected to replace president
By Meg James
Los Angeles Times

April 7, 2004

Walt Disney Co. is stitching together a plan to shake up its troubled ABC network by tossing out its top programmer and turning the reins over to one of the company's rising stars.

Details of the new management structure were far from settled Tuesday. But company sources said Anne Sweeney, president of the ABC Cable Networks and the Disney Channel Worldwide, was expected to take over as president of the network that continues to lag behind its competition.

Still being sorted out were the roles and titles of several key players, sources said. According to one source, tensions already were building over questions about who would have the most authority.

But this much is clear: ABC Entertainment Group Chairman Lloyd Braun will not be in the picture. Braun, who has often clashed during the past three years with Disney President Robert Iger over decisions involving the network, will soon leave his position, sources said.

To make room for Sweeney, ABC's current president and former boxing commentator, Alex Wallau, was expected to step down, although he is likely to remain with the network he joined in 1976, sources said.

The shuffle would most likely give more authority to Susan Lyne, ABC's entertainment president.

Lyne was tapped two years ago to become one of ABC's top programmers, but she has struggled to get some of her favorite shows on the air. Compared to rival networks, scheduling decisions at ABC can be cumbersome, involving the approval of many people, including Iger, a former ABC president, and Disney Chief Executive Officer Michael Eisner.

Disney and ABC executives would not comment Tuesday.

Although the company has yet to make an announcement, published reports about the changes led some Wall Street analysts and industry insiders to wonder whether Disney would go far enough to reverse the network's flagging fortunes.

The rumored structure "feels like they are simply rearranging the deck chairs rather than making any substantial structural changes," one television producer said Tuesday.

The anticipated shake-up comes as Eisner fends off calls for his own resignation after a 43 percent vote of no-confidence from shareholders last month.

He is under particular pressure to fix ABC. The network's poor performance was highlighted when Comcast Corp. launched its unsolicited bid for the company in February, and company executives said ABC was dragging down the company's earnings.

The network is mired in fourth place and its recently launched shows have sputtered, including the legal drama The D.A., mobster family saga Line of Fire and Stephen King's Kingdom Hospital.

That leaves just two ABC shows in the Top 30: the long-running Monday Night Football and the unscripted dating show, The Bachelor.

Several months ago, Disney board members told Eisner that they were not happy with ABC's management, and that he needed to make some changes, according to a source close to the board. Board members have been briefed on the proposed changes, including placing Sweeney in charge of the struggling network, the source said.

Sweeney could not be reached for comment.

This would not be the first time Sweeney has been tapped for a turnaround. In October, Eisner handed her the underperforming ABC Family cable channel that Disney acquired in 2001 for $5.2 billion.

Wall Street analysts on Tuesday praised Sweeney's performance. Since joining the company in 1996, she developed a strategy for the Disney Channel to target pre-teenage girls in addition to its core audience of toddlers.

"You have to go with someone who has established a track record, and that's Anne Sweeney," said David Joyce, media analyst with the Miami-based investment banking firm Guzman & Co. If the changes are true, he said, "It seems that Lloyd Braun is going to be the main scapegoat so that the company can show it's being proactive and trying to fix things."

The makeover comes at a critical time for the network. Next month, ABC will select pilots to put on its new fall schedule and unveil the lineup before thousands of advertisers in New York.

The turmoil means even more uncertainty for Hollywood producers, who are casting and shooting pilots that are in contention for a slot on the schedule.

Meg James is a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, a Tribune Publishing newspaper. Scott Collins of the Los Angeles Times and Richard Verrier of the Sentinel staff contributed to this report.

-Brendan
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#2 User is offline   QuickGold 

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Posted 09 April 2004 - 05:48 PM

ABC can use all the tinkering they can come up with.
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#3 User is offline   BDANtheman29 

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Posted 09 April 2004 - 05:58 PM

I really like 2 of the series they have right now - The Practice and the D.A. I think ending the Practice is yet another mistake, but the D.A. will definitely help with that.

-Brendan
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