ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey said Kenya Barris’ decision to prematurely exit his overall deal with ABC Studios came down to the “limitations” of broadcast television.
“I tend to feel like these deals with writers are cyclical,” Dungey told TheWrap at the Television Critics Association press tour on Tuesday. “And I think particularly where Kenya was concerned, he was interested in stretching some creative muscles that he didn’t think he could stretch in the broadcast space. And look, broadcast has its limitations.”
Barris, whose overall deal with ABC Studios wasn’t set to expire until 2021, announced last month that he would terminate his deal early. He is said to be eyeing a new pact with Netflix, putting him in the company of Shonda Rhimes and Ryan Murphy.
“Leaving is bittersweet, but between my series on the air and projects currently in development, I know I’ll continue to work with ABC Studios for a long time,” Barris said in a statement at the time.
According to Dungey, whose network is home to Barris’ Peabody-winning comedy “Black-ish,” Barris had grown “frustrated” by the limits of the network television format.
“I think Kenya got to a point where he was feeling was frustrated by the narrative need for ad breaks, frustrated by the idea of how long an episode of comedy can be, frustrated by Standards & Practices,” she said. “And so, at a certain point, these are rules of broadcast, right? And if you want to veer outside of them, you have to explore streaming or something else.”
Echoing Barris’ statement last month, Dungey said ABC maintains a “good relationship” with the producer despite his departure.
Barris will remain on as an executive producer of “Black-ish,” though Jonathan Groff and Kenny Smith will takeover as showrunners. He also serves as executive producer of the Freeform spinoff “Grown-ish,” as well as on the upcoming Freeform comedy “Besties.”