NEW YORK — Robert F. Callahan has been promoted to the newly created position of president of the ABC Broadcast Group.
Effective immediately, Callahan adds responsibility for the ABC Television Network to his current duties as president of broadcasting.
“We are confident that Bob will capitalize on our current success by helping us to lead our broadcast properties into the digital age, an era in which we must extend our programs across numerous distribution platforms,” said Robert A. Iger, president of the Walt Disney Co., to whom Callahan will report.
The appointment follows the departure of ABC Television Network president Patricia Fili-Krushel, who ankled her post last month to join Healtheon/WebMD, an Internet health care company, as president-CEO of its consumer division.
Not a replacement
Callahan has no immediate plans to replace Fili-Krushel, he said in an interview with Daily Variety. “That position may be replaced down the pike, but I’m not replacing it right now,” he said, adding that “I will jump into it and get to know the team, which will give me a chance to evaluate and go from there.”
For the time being, Callahan will leave daily oversight of ABC Entertainment Group to the division’s co-presidents Stu Bloomberg and Lloyd Braun. “Stu and Lloyd will run the show there,” said Callahan. Likewise, David Westin will continue to head up ABC News.
Alex Wallau, the veteran ABC exec who was appointed interim president of ABC TV after Fili-Krushel ankled, will continue to hold the post of president of ABC TV administration and operations. “He is a very knowledgeable executive and Bob (Callahan) expects to work very closely with him,” said an ABC spokeswoman.
Callahan’s name had been bandied about as a possible replacement for Steven Bornstein — who left his post as president of ABC Inc. in February 1999 to head up Disney’s Go.com, and was never replaced.
With nearly 20 years experience at Capital Cities, ABC and the Walt Disney Co., Callahan had been president of broadcasting since February 1999. His leadership at the helm of the broadcasting division was marked by unprecedented expansion and growth.
When Callahan began oversight of ABC’s TV stations, they were reportedly worth $8 billion. Now, by some reports, they are worth $10.5 billion. During his previous tenure as president of the ABC Radio Group, he created ESPN Radio Network and Radio Disney and, by some reports, doubled the value of the group.
“Bob Callahan’s record at ABC is one of expansion and innovation, and I know his energy and drive will contribute greatly to ABC,” said Michael D. Eisner, chairman and CEO of the Walt Disney Co. “Bob will also help us redefine our traditional relationships with advertisers, program suppliers and affiliates.
Prior to joining ABC, Callahan was senior VP and group publisher at Fairchild Publications, overseeing 13 publications and Fairchild’s Asian sales operations. After joining ABC as senior VP of ABC’s Diversified Publishing Group, Callahan was promoted to president of the ABC Radio Networks in July 1990. He was promoted to President of the ABC Radio Group in April 1996.
While Callahan’s new job gives him oversight of ABC News, ABC Entertainment, ABC Sports, ABC Daytime, Affiliate Relations, ABC Owned Television Stations, ABC Radio Networks, and National Television Sales, among other divisions, a number of top execs will continue to report to Iger. Among them are Anne Sweeney, president Disney/ABC Cable Networks; George Bodenheimer, president ESPN; Janice Marinelli, president Buena Vista Television; and Robert Miller, senior VP and managing director Hyperion.
Callahan will be based in Los Angeles but plans to continue spending much of his time in New York.