Diversity: ABC Taps First Black Woman to Run Broadcast Network

David Livingston/Getty Images for TheWrap
Paul Lee and Channing Dungey (David Livingston/Getty Images for TheWrap)

ABC entertainment president Paul Lee resigned Wednesday after reportedly losing a power struggle with Disney-ABC Television Group chairman Ben Sherwood. The network’s top drama development chief Channing Dungey has been named as his successor.

Dungey becomes the first black female president of a broadcast network, according to the New York Times, which first broke the news of Lee’s departure.

The Times reported that Sherwood and Lee clashed over the network’s future strategy and programming decisions.

Dungey, who, in her role as executive vice president of drama programming, oversaw the development of network hits like Scandal and American Crime, will step into her new job immediately and will report directly to Sherwood, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Dungey reportedly has a close relationship with Shonda Rhimes, whose hit shows like Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy, and How to Get Away with Murder have bolstered the network as it suffers from mediocre ratings.

From the Hollywood Reporter:

Lee, a British executive who found success at ABC Family before moving to ABC following Steve McPherson’s ousting, has remained guarded during his network tenure. He rarely doles out interviews to the press, and many sellers have long complained that they have found themselves hamstrung because they don’t have a good handle on his tastes. His exit comes half a year after a change was announced at rival CBS, where Glenn Geller was named as Nina Tassler’s replacement.

For her part, Dungey has long been seen internally as an executive on the rise. The UCLA grad joined the network in 2009, and before that worked for sibling ABC Studios. Though her credits include a range of shows including critically beloved American Crime and one-time ratings heavyweight Once Upon a Time, her biggest success has been her fruitful relationship with Rhimes. Dungey began her career as a development assistant at 20th Century Fox-based Davis Entertainment, and did stints at other companies including Steamroller Productions and Warner Bros.

Read the full story at the Hollywood Reporter here.


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