Exec's exit voluntary; likely to remain with AOL TW

HOLLYWOOD — After seven years at the WB, Susanne Daniels is ankling her post as co-prexy of entertainment.

An exact timetable for Daniels’ exit has yet to be finalized, but the exec is expected to leave the AOL Time Warner-owned Froglet by month’s end. Jordan Levin, upped to co-prexy of entertainment last winter, will now fly solo.

WB and industry insiders described Daniels’ exit as voluntary. It comes following a season in which the WB resumed a pattern of ratings growth; netlet’s fall 2001 development roster has also met with a generally warm reception from Madison Avenue.

Daniels is expected to stay within the AOL Time Warner fold, most likely taking on an entrepreneurial role in partnership with the conglom. The exact nature of her new gig is still being hammered out.

In another exec shift at the WB, prexy and chief operating officer Jed Petrick is now expected to relocate from Gotham to Burbank this summer. Shift comes as Turner Broadcasting/WB chairman Jamie Kellner, now based in Atlanta, further distances himself from day-to-day involvement at the Frog.

Still on the team

Kellner and former WB Entertainment prexy Garth Ancier are still active in WB matters, however; Daniels is also expected to remain part of the Frog’s kitchen cabinet of senior advisers, ensuring a continued stability in the net’s creative and business teams.

Daniels, who’s been in a key leadership role at the WB since its 1994 birth — including three seasons as entertainment prexy — said she simply needed to move on to something new.

“I went to Jamie a while ago and said I can’t keep doing the job the way I want to do it,” Daniels told Daily Variety. “I just wanted to do something fresh. It’s time for me to take on new challenges.”

Indeed, Daniels has outlasted most of her top-level network colleagues, serving in a No. 1 or 2 position within the WB entertainment division for seven years. Even when Garth Ancier was entertainment prexy, he treated Daniels more like a partner than an underling. As a result, Daniels has presented the WB’s fall lineup to advertisers seven times — more than any other network exec now in power.

Flex time needed

Another factor in Daniels’ decision: a desire for a more flexible position that will allow her to spend more time with her family. Daniels gave birth to her third child earlier this year.

While Daniels declined comment on her next move, it’s expected the new role will allow her to continue to contribute to the WB. Daniels said she’s confident that the Frog net is in good hands with Levin and Petrick.

“I think Jordan and Jed will do a phenomenal job,” Daniels said. “They’ve also been there from the beginning, so there remains a consistent voice and vision at the WB Network.”

Levin said he’ll “definitely miss (Daniels) as my day-to-day partner.”

“Our working relationship is a strong one,” Levin said. “It’s probably as intimate as a working relationship can be. It’s lasted longer than most Hollywood marriages.”

As for Daniels’ legacy, Levin said she helped bring respectability to a young network.

“Susanne was driven to absolutely make sure the WB achieved a parity in terms of respectability in our industry with the other four networks,” he said. “She was driven to prove we could schedule these shows, promote these shows and make these shows a part of pop culture.”

Daniels first hopped to the Frog as one of the weblet’s initial hires in July 1994, six months prior to its launch.

Young, powerful

At 29, Daniels was named head of primetime series under then-head of programming Garth Ancier — making her one of the youngest senior-level network execs in the business.

Ancier — who continued to also produce “The Ricki Lake Show” in New York — and Daniels forged a partnership in the net’s early years, as Daniels played an instrumental role in the creation of signature WB skeins “Dawson’s Creek,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Felicity.” She also oversaw the development of numerous other Frog skeins, including “7th Heaven” and “Gilmore Girls.”

Daniels signed a new contract in 1997 upping her to exec VP of programming, with a stipulation that she would be named the WB’s entertainment president by summer 1999 (Ancier would have been upped to network prexy).

That wish came a bit earlier than expected, when Ancier chose to ankle the Frog in late 1998 to join NBC. Daniels was quickly elevated to entertainment prexy, while Levin took her No. 2 post as exec VP of programming.

Daniels later opted to promote Levin to her equal this winter (Daily Variety, Feb. 15). The co-presidency had been in the works for months, as Daniels took maternity leave and mulled taking a bigger-picture role at the net.

A Harvard grad, Daniels had been working in New York theater when she met then-NBC News president Lawrence Grossman, who served as a catalyst for her move into TV.

Grossman introduced Daniels to “Saturday Night Live” producer Lorne Michaels, who hired her as an assistant. She later served as manager for Michaels’ Broadway Video Entertainment, helping develop the sketch laffer “The Kids in the Hall.”

Daniels then spent two years at ABC as director of variety, reality and specials. While at the Alphabet web, she helped develop skeins such as “America’s Funniest People” and oversaw specials such as the net’s Academy Awards telecasts. At ABC she also first met Ancier, who was pitching a pilot at the net.

Before hopping to the WB, Daniels spent two years as director of comedy development at Fox. While there, she first worked with Levin (a Disney TV exec at the time) on the short-lived Touchstone laffer “Monty.” She also helped develop the hit laffer “Living Single.”

Daniels then got the call from Ancier to join the WB as the new weblet’s second programming exec hire.

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