The 2018-19 broadcast season got off to an unexpectedly turbulent start last fall when a whopping three network chief jobs turned over in the space of just two months. In September, George Cheeks and Paul Telegdy jointly stepped in as NBC Entertainment co-chairmen, replacing the departing Robert Greenblatt. A month later, Charlie Collier was named Fox Entertainment CEO in October, taking over for Fox Television Group chairmen and CEOs Dana Walden, who will be moving to Disney when the Disney-Fox deal closes, and Gary Newman, who will be leaving the company. Then Karey Burke took over as ABC Entertainment president in November, when Channing Dungey departed (she quickly landed at Netflix). While all four execs focused on getting up to speed during their first months in their new roles, they’re finally ready to open up about their respective priorities for their networks, their message to advertisers and why they still believe in broadcast TV.
President, ABC Entertainment
Previous job: evp, programming and development, Freeform
Top priority for ABC: “Whether it’s up or down, ABC has always been No. 1 with women 18-49, and we lost that mantle this fall,” said Burke. “So my biggest priority is getting that back.” To that end, she’s looking for new shows with “female-forward stories that are not female-exclusive or male-repellant. But that have, at their core, an idea or character or concept that is appealing to women. I want to get back that idea—and we’re not far from it—that the home for the best shows for women on broadcast television is at ABC.”
Her message to advertisers: During her seven years as a prime-time exec at NBC, including in the Must-See TV era, “I learned the importance of the kind of audience that we are delivering: 18-49, smart, upscale. That doesn’t mean we aren’t going to serve everybody, and we do, but I am focused on delivering the best quality audience to the advertisers,” said Burke. In her home, “we watch the commercials, and will often go back, if somebody’s speeding through the commercials. There’s unbelievable storytelling going on in the ad world right now—witness the Super Bowl. So I believe that storytelling in advertising is every bit as relevant and part of a deeply important partnership for us in broadcast.”
Why broadcast still matters: “I wouldn’t have taken the job if I thought it was over,” Burke said of broadcast TV’s reign. “I’ve been doing this long enough to have been at a broadcast network when the big threat was Fox. Then the big threat was cable, and then AOL was merging with Time Warner, and here we are again [with streaming]. And broadcast networks survive, because they are a great business and they’re a great way to tell stories.” From The Bachelor to Grey’s Anatomy, she said, “those kinds of cultural conversations, and of-the-moment experiences, are still, to me, the special providence of network TV.”
CEO, Fox Entertainment
Previous job: president and gm of AMC, SundanceTV and AMC Studios
Top priorities at Fox: As he waits for Fox Broadcast to be spun off alongside some other 21st Century Fox assets prior to the close of the Disney deal (“we really are building a new company while we’re transitioning an old company out,” he said), Collier is thinking ahead to next season. With Empire now in Season 5, Collier is looking for another “signature soap opera, be it Melrose or 90210 or The O.C., that has been a hallmark” of the network, as well as “continued investment” in animation. “And then some of the surprises, the ‘Did Fox really just greenlight that?’ [show order], that turns into a hit,” like midseason success The Masked Singer.