ABC is expected to announce today the promotion of Ted Harbert to president of ABC Entertainment, filling a void left by Robert Iger’s elevation to head the ABC TV Network Group, effective Jan. 1.
Harbert has been exec VP of prime time under Iger since April 1989 along with Stu Bloomberg, who is expected to remain with the entertainment division at least through development season. But he could, at that point, exercise an option in his contract to segue into an independent production deal with in-house unit ABC Prods.
As executive VP, Harbert, 37, has overseen current programs, scheduling, specials and reality series for ABC, while Bloomberg was responsible for program development.
Because the two are so complementary in their functions, there has been some speculation that Iger would split the job between them, though most observers felt that would create confusion and that a clear leader of the division had to be named.
Harbert would be taking over the slot with a degree of momentum, as ABC is coming off a big November sweeps triumph and has won six of 11 weeks this season in the Nielsen standings. Though the web ranks behind CBS in households season to date, it’s also the solid leader among adults 18-49, the key sales demographic.
ABC Entertainment brass were in New York last week for a meeting with the company’s board of directors. As head of the TV group, Iger will continue to oversee the entertainment division as well as news, sports, sales, affiliate relations and other related areas.
Naming a successor was Iger’s first responsibility in the new job, and the choice was clearly his to make. At the time Iger was promoted, Capital Cities/ABC president-CEO Daniel B. Burke said Iger would need a solid working relationship with the entertainment chief that would likely extend beyond the time Burke, 63, retired from the company.
Like Iger, Harbert has spent virtually his entire career at ABC, joining the web in 1977as a feature film coordinator for ABC Entertainment. He moved through a series of promotions before becoming director, program planning and scheduling in 1981 and VP in that area two years later.
He subsequently held VP positions in motion pictures (’86), motion pictures and scheduling (’87) and prime time (’88) before both he and Bloomberg–who has been at ABC since ’78–were upped to their most recent posts, shortly after Iger was named president of the division.