Salaam Coleman Smith has been named EVP strategy and programming at ABC Family, the network’s president Tom Ascheim announced this morning at Summer TV Press Tour 2014. “You may know her best from her work at Style or E!,” he said, calling her hire a “key part of building our future. She’s a great exec and an even greater person.” Smith’s hire seems to confirm sources’ reports ABC Family is looking to make a bigger push into the unscripted genre. Meanwhile, Ascheim said, “I am actively looking for Kate Juergens’ replacement.”
Kate Juergens, the executive behind ABC Family‘s defining original programming including Pretty Little Liars, The Secret Life Of The American Teenager, Switched At Birth and The Fosters, last week exited her post as Chief Creative Officer and EVP Original Content. The move was announced last week via a staff memo from Ascheim. He said her departure will result in a restructuring at the Disney cable network that includes the exit of SVP Acquisitions and Scheduling Lynn Stepanian, the odd person out in a new plan to combine Business Strategy, Planning & Development and Scheduling & Acquisitions under one roof and one leader. Both Juergens and Stepanian departed last week.
Juergens was Michael Riley’s No. 2 until his departure in September as ABC Family president. She was tipped to be a front-runner for the top job, much as she was in the mix as the top development executive when Paul Lee left as network president in 2010 — she did not make a play for the post then. Ascheim, a former Nickelodeon GM and CEO of Newsweek, eventually was hired in December after a search led by Anne Sweeney, then co-chair of Disney Media Networks and president of Disney/ABC Television Group (Sweeney reportedly searched for an executive with a strong business background).
Coleman Smith joins the network with extensive experience in business, creative and day-to-day network management, having served as President of Style Media for the past five years and most recently as President, Strategic Initiatives for NBCUniversal’s Cable Entertainment Group.
Juergens said in her own memo to staff that she began discussions about leaving the network “several months ago.” Ascheim asked her to stay through pilot season, which originally included pickups for three drama pilots; one, Alice In Arabia, about an American teenage girl kidnapped by her extended royal Saudi Arabian family and forced to live with them, was pulled four days after it was announced amid pressure from a Muslim advocacy group.
Stepanian was hired by Riley for her current post in June 2012 from TV Guide Network. In her role she was responsible for off-network series and feature acquisitions as well as overseeing the strategic scheduling of all on-air linear content and longform video.