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Channing Dungey becomes first African-American to head broadcast TV network “Details”
- Updated: February 19, 2016
Channing Dungey made history after she was announced as the new president of the ABC Entertainment Group, the network announced Wednesday (Feb. 17) from New York. Ms. Dungey’s promotion makes her the first Black person to ever head a major broadcast network.
According to The New York Times, Lee stepped down after losing a power struggle with Ben Sherwood, president of the Disney / ABC Television Group.
“Channing is a gifted leader and a proven magnet for top creative talent, with an impressive record of developing compelling, breakthrough programming,” said Sherwood in a statement. “We thank Paul for his many accomplishments at ABC and his devotion to the ABC brand, and we wish him continued success in the future.”
Dungey becomes the first African-American woman to lead a broadcast network.
“I’m thrilled and humbled that Ben has entrusted me with this tremendous opportunity,” Dungey said. “I am truly grateful to Paul for being a valued mentor and friend. I’ve had the great honor of working alongside the talented team at ABC for many years and look forward to starting this exciting new chapter with them.
Dungey, who has been with ABC since 2004, helped develop and launch Scandal, Quantico, Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, How to Get Away with Murder, and Once Upon a Time. She joined ABC working as vp, drama development, and later svp, drama development.
This appointment makes her the only woman to run a network solo, since Nina Tassler stepped down as CBS entertainment chairman last year (Dana Walden serves as co-CEO and co-chairman of Fox Television Group alongside Gary Newman).
Lee had been in his position since joining the company in July 2010, after working as CEO and founder of BBC America. During his five and a half years at the helm, he built several formidable nights of programming, including Shonda Rhimes’ TGIT lineup and the Wednesday night comedy block. ABC also boasted the most diverse slate of broadcast programming under Lee’s watch, with shows like Scandal, Fresh Off the Boat, Black-ish, Dr. Ken and How to Get Away with Murder.
Season to date, ABC ranks fourth in the all-important 18-49 demographic, with a 1.8 rating. That puts it well behind CBS (2.5), NBC (2.4) and Fox (2.1). The network ranks third this season in total viewers, with 6.6 million, behind CBS (11.7 million) and NBC (8.8 million) but ahead of Fox (6.4 million).
While ABC canceled the first show of the season, Wicked City, the network also launched one of the biggest freshman hits in Quantico. But the network also bungled the return of The Muppets, which Lee boasted in May was “not your grandmother’s Muppets.” After ratings dropped following a strong debut, the show was retooled to be more like, yes, your grandmother’s Muppets.
Speaking last month in what turned out to be his final Television Critics Association press tour for ABC, Lee touted “four incredibly powerful shows” that are coming to the network in midseason: dramas The Family (March 3), Of Kings and Prophets (March 8), and The Catch (March 24), along with comedy The Real O’Neals (March 8).
“Leading ABC has been a fantastic experience,” Lee said in a statement. “I’m especially proud of the incredible team I built and the strategic, creative vision we established and successfully executed for both the network and studio. Together, we’ve transformed ABC into one of the strongest brands in television.”