ABC Entertainment Group president Paul Lee has finalized a new multi-year deal to remain at the helm of the broadcast network and its sibling ABC Studios. With ABC News president Ben Sherwood recently tapped to succeed Anne Sweeney as co-Chairman of Disney Media Networks and President of Disney/ABC Television Group, ABC is heading into next month’s upfronts with a top executive team in place for the next several years.
Lee has faced a number of challenges during his first term, with several high-profile new series not able to take hold. His successes include Shonda Rhimes’ hot D.C. drama Scandal, fairytale drama Once Upon A Time and promising midseason entry Resurrection. Despite some inroads, ABC is expected to finish No. 4 among adults 18-49 again this season. I hear Lee’s decision to re-sign stems at least in part from his desire to see through his plan for the network’s turnaround. There are encouraging early signs about ABC’s current development, which has been getting thumbs-up within Disney. Lee is well liked by top Disney brass as well as within the Hollywood community and had been in discussions about a contract renewal when Sweeney made her announcement last month that she would be leaving the company in January. When Sherwood was named her successor, he spoke very highly of Lee, praising his development slate. With Sherwood, a relative Hollywood novice (he previously had a novel adapted as a movie), keeping Lee in place provides continuity and brings institutional knowledge to his new pairing with Sherwood. Lee joined ABC in the summer 2010 following the ouster of former ABC topper Stephen McPherson, now a producer. Lee was recruited by Sweeney from sibling ABC Family, where he had a successful turn as president.