ABC programming head exits; successor is a network TV first

Channing Dungey, who succeeds Paul Lee, is the first African-American to hold the chief position.
Channing Dungey, who succeeds Paul Lee, is the first African-American to hold the chief position.
Published Feb. 18, 2016

LOS ANGELES — The head of ABC entertainment is exiting amid low ratings, to be replaced by the first African-American to head a broadcast TV network.

ABC Entertainment Group president Paul Lee has decided to leave, the network announced Wednesday.

His successor is Channing Dungey, who has been ABC Entertainment Group's executive vice president for drama development, movies and miniseries, overseeing drama pilots and series' launches.

Dungey shepherded ABC hits including Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder and Quantico.

The changeover comes a year after Ben Sherwood became president of the Disney-ABC TV Group, and after Lee's nearly six years as programming chief.

"Channing is a gifted leader and a proven magnet for top creative talent, with an impressive record" of helping to create compelling and popular series, Sherwood said in a statement.

Dungey is both the first black network programming chief and a rare female executive. While other women have served in top network jobs, the positions at major networks CBS, NBC and Fox currently are held by men.

Her appointment comes at a time of increased scrutiny of Hollywood's lack of diversity on- and off-camera, with attention focused recently on the Oscars' all-white slate of nominees.

Dungey said in a statement that she is "thrilled and humbled" by the opportunity.

Lee, in a statement issued by ABC, said he was proud of the team he built at the network and wished Dungey well. He did not say why he was leaving or what his next job would be.

Dungey, a graduate of UCLA's School of Theater, Film and Television, has been in the ABC family since 2004, starting with ABC Studios. Previously, she worked at production companies and as a production executive at Warner Bros., handling films including The Bridges of Madison County and The Matrix.