ESPN exec on deck at ABC

Alphabet's Braun flexing options

ESPN programming whiz Mark Shapiro could be moving from Bristol to Burbank.

Shapiro — who was just 31 when, in 2001, he was named senior VP and general manager of programming for the Connecticut-based cable sports empire — has had conversations with Disney brass about a senior programming gig at ABC.

Exactly what the job may be — and who at ABC, if anyone, may be displaced as a result — remained unclear and the topic of fierce industry chatter over the weekend. Shapiro, an 11-year ESPN vet, has demonstrated his chops at developing watercooler-worthy skeins, including the critically hailed football drama “Playmakers” and ESPN2’s fledgling ayemer “Cold Pizza.”

Separate from the Shapiro speculation, rumblings about the future of ABC chairman Lloyd Braun have been growing louder over the last six weeks, with many insiders convinced Braun’s tenure at the net is coming to an end.

While ABC’s poor primetime performance makes Braun — and all other execs at the net — vulnerable, there is now considerable industry buzz that Braun may be looking to leave the network of his own accord by this summer.

A wildcard in the whole situation is Touchstone Television prexy Steve McPherson, whose contract is up in June.

Despite a track record that includes developing “CSI,” “Scrubs,” “My Wife and Kids” and “According to Jim,” the exec does not yet have a new deal in place. McPherson has been touted as a contender for a key studio role in the new NBC Universal.

Alphabet insiders, however, caution against assumptions that Shapiro is being considered as a replacement for Braun or any other top ABC exec. It’s possible a new role could be carved out for Shapiro, though it’s hard to see how ABC’s already top-heavy management team could justify another body.

It’s also worth noting that a number of different ABC exec shuffle scenarios have been making the rumor rounds in recent weeks and none have proven to be true.

“We don’t comment on speculation,” an ABC spokeswoman said Sunday.

Numerous industry observers believe it’s almost irrelevant whether Shapiro joins ABC in a top capacity, noting that a slew of exec changes over the past few years has failed to make an impact on the net’s overall performance.

Since Disney took control of ABC, management has recruited execs such as Jamie Tarses, Pat Fili, Stu Bloomberg, Steve Bornstein, Bob Callahan, Alex Wallau, Braun and Susan Lyne for key roles. Despite all the shuffling, the net has yet to turn around, save for a brief respite when “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” was a hit.

Observers note that the only constant during most of these changes has been Disney prexy-chief operating officer Robert Iger, who two years ago announced plans to get more actively involved in ABC matters.

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