An executive shake-up resulted in Channing Dungey making history Feb. 17 when shewas named entertainment president of ABC television network, which is owned by The Walt Disney Company (No. 34 on the 2015 DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list).
Dungey is the first Black person and first Black woman tolead the entertainment division of a major broadcast network. ABC televisionwascreated in 1948. She is one of five women senior executives at ABC; there are 11 men.
“Channing is a gifted leader and a proven magnet for top creative talent, with an impressive record of developing compelling, breakthrough programming that resonates with viewers,” Ben Sherwood said in a statement.
Dungey, 46, was tapped for the position by Sherwood, who has been co-chairman of Disney Media Networks and president, Disney|ABC Television Group since February 2015.
“I’m thrilled and humbled that Ben has entrusted me with this tremendous opportunity,” said Dungey, a magna cum laude graduate of UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television. “And I am truly grateful to Paul for being a valued mentor and friend.”
She replaces Paul Lee, who stepped down but was reportedly forced out as he and Sherwood clashed on the direction of the network and ratings have dropped in recent months.However, Lee has received credit for promoting a diverse agenda in primetime TV with shows such as “Fresh Off the Boat,” created by Nahnatchka Khan, and “‘black-ish,” created by Kenya Barris.
Prior to her promotion, Dungey was executive vice president of Drama Development, Movies and Miniseries at ABC Entertainment Group.In this position she oversaw the development and production of all drama pilots, movies and miniseries and the launch of new series. Under Lee, Dungey played a pivotal role in developing hits including Shonda Rhimes‘ “Scandal” and “How to Get Away with Murder,” starring Emmy award-winning actress Viola Davis, who has been vocal about the industry’s need of diversity.
Dungey, too, understands the significance of diversity.
“Diversity is enormously important to me,” she said in an interview with Deadline Hollywood published Saturday. “It was part of my mission in my old role and we will continue to be as diverse as we possibly can both in front of and behind the camera going forward. It makes sense from a storytelling perspective, it makes sense in terms of reflecting the world that we live in. And it also makes really good business sense.”
The report “2015 Hollywood Diversity Report: Flipping the Script,” from the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA,foundthat TV fares better than film in diversity. There are many more TV shows produced each year and the budgets are typically much smaller.
“Film always lags behind television,” Darnell Hunt, the study’s co-author and director of the Bunche Center,said. “I think part of it has to deal with, in many ways, the higher risk associated with film.”
Previously Dungey, who is married and has a three-year-old daughter, was vice president of Drama Development, ABC Studios. The Sacramento native is a founding member and current board member of Step Up, a national nonprofit membership organization dedicated to helping girls from under-resourced communities by preparing them for college and a professional career.
“I’ve had the great honor of working alongside the talented team at ABC for many years and look forward to starting this exciting new chapter with them,” Dungey said.