Anne Sweeney’s surprising resignation to begin a new career as a television director leaves void at the top of Disney/ABC Television Group – but the company could easily fill it from within.
A slew of potential replacements – including the heads of entertainment at NBC, CBS, and Fox – all appear to be locked into their contracts. CBS’s Nina Tassler and NBC’s Bob Greenblatt have signed on through 2017, and Fox’s Kevin Reilly signed a deal in 2012 that his boss, Peter Rice, said would keep him with the network for “many more years.” Showtime president David Nevins was also just promoted and extended his contract to 2018.
So who’s left? Plenty of people. And most of them work for Disney already. Disney CEO Bob Iger could easily promote existing employees rather than poach from elsewhere.
Also read: Bob Iger to Remain as Disney CEO Into 2016
1. Paul Lee
Sweeney was his boss, so ABC’s head of entertainment would seem an obvious choice, except that ABC is having ratings troubles this season. The network has slipped to fourth place in the key demo, and it hasn’t had any big hits this season.
2. Ben Sherwood
Since taking over as president of ABC News, Sherwood has led the divisions’s flagship program, “Good Morning America,” to unseat NBC’s “Today” as the top-rated morning show after 16 years. But he’s not just a news guy. Sherwood has written three novels, including “The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud,” which became a movie starring former Disney star Zac Efron. Here’s to unintentional corporate synergy.
3. Nancy Dubuc
The president and CEO of A&E Networks presides over a suite of successful networks including A&E, Lifetime, and History. Ratings for shows like “Duck Dynasty” and “The Bible” make other networks salivate. She also successfully navigated what looked like a no-win “Duck Dynasty” standoff in December, as A&E suspended and then quickly unsuspended star Phil Robertson for anti-gay remarks. That took some doing. At 45, she’s also the youngest of our potential candidates. One hiccup: A&E networks is a joint venture between Disney and Hearst, and Hearst will want to keep her in place.
4. Gail Berman
The co-founder of media company BermanBraun has already led Paramount Pictures and Fox Broadcasting Company, so she could thrive in a Disney job that involves plenty of repackaging hit Disney-Marvel films for TV. (“Marvels Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” won’t be the last of them.) Berman is now a free agent again, after leaving the company she founded with Lloyd Braun five years ago.
5. John Skipper
Iger could simply ask Skipper, Sweeney’s co-chair of Disney Media Networks Group, to take over her division, Disney-ABC Television Group, in addition to continuing his duties as president of ESPN. But heading ESPN is a huge job as it is. There’s a reason he and Sweeney have had two separate jobs all this time. Still: Skipper has been with Disney since 1990, he oversaw incredible growth, and ESPN is a major moneymaker for Disney.