Channing Dungey is stepping down as President of ABC Entertainment after less than three years on the job. As usual, Disney has reached within its ranks for a replacement, naming Karey Burke, head of Freeform original programming development, as new ABC Entertainment president.
The move comes ahead of the completion of the 21st Century Fox acquisition by Disney and following the announcement of the Disney-ABC post-merger TV leadership, that includes Fox’s Dana Walden taking oversight of ABC, ABC Studios and Freeform as chairman, Disney Television Studios and ABC Entertainment.
Ever since that leadership structure was announced with Dungey in her previous position reporting to Walden, there had been speculation that Dungey may leave as she had been tipped to be on track for a bigger role after a solid track record as ABC Entertainment president. Her contract was coming up soon, and according to sources, she was offered a new one but opted to do something new. It is not clear what she plans to do next. There had been a lot of chatter about her possibly going to Netflix as an executive or work with Shonda Rhimes at the streaming giant or run Barack and Michelle Obama’s Netflix-based production company though none have been substantiated.
“I’m grateful to Channing for her significant contributions and unwavering dedication to the success of ABC over the past 14 years. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed having the opportunity to work with and mentor Channing; her curiosity, passion and creativity will ensure she is successful in whatever path she chooses going forward.” said Bob Iger, chairman and CEO, The Walt Disney Company. “Over the past four years at Freeform, and throughout her career, Karey has proven herself a gifted leader with a strong track record of developing unique programming. Karey’s attention to, and intimate knowledge of, the audience, and a commitment to quality will be a great addition to the creative team at ABC.”
Dungey became the first black executive to run one of the Big Four networks’ entertainment divisions. She added promising new series such as The Good Doctor to the ABC schedule during her tenure as Entertainment President and was credited as being a driving force behind the network’s swift decision to cancel its top series, Roseanne, following star Roseanne Barr’s racist tweet. Dungey will stay through a transition period as Burke assumes her new role. She is the second top Disney-ABC executive to leave on the eve of the Disney-Fox transaction, along with Disney-ABC TV Group president Ben Sherwood. Other recent Disney-ABC departures include ABC head of comedy Jamila Hunter and ABC Studios head of drama Nne Ebong. Dungey, Hunter and Ebong are all African American.
This is the latest development in a period of unprecedented executive upheaval at the Big 4 broadcast networks over the last few months, which also saw the departure of Walden and Gary Newman from Fox and the arrival of Charlie Collier, the exit from NBC of Bob Greenblatt who was replaced by Paul Telegdy and George Cheeks, and the ouster of CBS boss Leslie Moonves.
“I’m incredibly proud of what the team and I have accomplished over the years, and all the meaningful and impactful programming we’ve developed,” Dungey said. “This job has been the highlight of my career. While I’ve loved every moment, and knew I could call ABC home for many years to come, I’m excited to tackle new challenges. The toughest thing about this choice is leaving all the immensely talented people I’ve grown to admire and care for, from Bob Iger, the best leader and mentor that anyone could have; to my peers and colleagues; to my talented team, who I will miss enormously. But knowing that Karey is taking over, a person that I like and respect so deeply, makes passing the baton a lot easier. I know that, together, under Peter and Dana’s leadership, they are going to achieve great things and I will be rooting for their success.”
Dungey, a well respected executive, was named ABC Entertainment president in February 2016. Before that she ran drama development. During her tenure at Disney, she oversaw and championed such ABC series as The Good Doctor, The Rookie, Single Parents, Scandal, Criminal Minds, How To Get Away With Murder, black-ish, Once Upon a Time, and Speechless.
In her new role, Burke will oversee all development, programming, casting, marketing, business affairs and scheduling operations for ABC prime time and late-night. She will report to Walden post-merger, with her replacement at Freeform to be announced at a later date.
This marks a return to the broadcast executive ranks for Burke who served as EVP of Primetime Series at NBC from 1999 to 2003. Burke was named EVP Programming and Development at Freeform in October 2014. During her tenure, she delivered the #1 new cable comedy and #1 new cable drama of 2018 for the network’s target audience of W18-34 with grown-ish and Siren. She also developed the well received The Bold Type and Marvel’s Cloak and Dagger.
Burke previously was partnered with director Todd Holland in Dark Toy Entertainment, which produced series Free Agents and Go On. Previously, she was partnered with Ashton Kutcher and Jason Goldberg in Katalyst Films and with Jamie Tarses.