It has been a whirlwind of three months for Ben Sherwood. In December, he signed a new long-term contract with ABC News, which he had led since December 2010. Now he has been given the keys to a much bigger Disney TV kingdom, named the successor to Anne Sweeney as co-chairman, Disney Media Networks and president, Disney/ABC Television Group. “It was as quick as it seems,” Sherwood said of the hiring process. He said he learned the surprising news that Sweeney would be stepping down in February 2015 to become a TV director along with everyone else when she and Disney chairman and CEO Bob Iger made the announcement less than two weeks ago. “There was a very clear succession plan,” Sherwood said. “(Iger) had a number of conversations with people internally and reached the decision pretty quickly.” However, Sherwood acknowledges that the plan may have been hatched over the six-month period in which Iger and Sweeney had been discussing her exit before making it public.
Sherwood could be working with ABC Entertainment Group president Paul Lee, who had been negotiating a new contract, something Sherwood welcomes. “I’ve worked with Paul for the past few years, and I know he is an incredibly bright and talented guy,” Sherwood said. “He’s had share of hits and is primed for more, and I’m really excited about this development cycle.”
As for his own replacement atop ABC News, “we follow the same blueprint and have a robust succession process,” Sherwood said, noting that “we have a deep bench at ABC News.” He called fining a successor “a top priority.”
“Honored” by the new job, Sherwood said he plans to approach it as a journalist in the next 12 months when he will be learning the ropes as a co-president (and understudy) to Disney/ABC Television Group alongside Sweeney. “I have a great deal of curiosity, and, as a journalist, I’ll be asking a lot of questions, I’ll be digging deep and learning a lot.” He has ideas he wants to bring to the job overseeing a portfolio of networks but declined to share them. “I approach this with humility, and I think it would presumptuous for me to lay out particular ideas,” he said. (more…)