BBC America chief executive officer Paul Lee has emerged as the leading candidate to take the helm of Disney-owned cabler ABC Family.
Lee is said to be at the top of a short list of potential candidates in line to replace former ABC Family prexy Angela Shapiro, who ankled in October. Lee would report to ABC Cable Networks Group topper Anne Sweeney, who was given total oversight of ABC Family shortly before Shapiro left. Previously, Sweeney oversaw the non-programming aspects of the channel.
Chief priority for incoming topper will be to jumpstart ABC Family’s endeavors into original series programming. While telepics have performed modestly, cabler’s series efforts — almost of all of which have focused on the unscripted arena — have lagged.
Lee has run Discovery Networks-owned BBC America since its 1998 launch. He continues to oversee the day-to-day operations and business of the network, a 24-hour home to Brit imports. Cabler recently nabbed a pair of Golden Globes for the hit laffer “The Office,” which NBC is currently developing for next season.
Sweeney has been scouting for a president for several months with hopes to have a topper in place by May’s National Cable Show in New Orleans. Programming head Linda Mancuso passed away in December and programming exec Robin Schwartz exited for the top post at Regency Television earlier this year (Daily Variety, Feb 13). In addition, former senior VP Tom Cosgrove recently departed for a position at TV Guide Channel.
In the interim, ABC Family senior VP-general manager Mark Silverman has run the channel’s day-to-day while Disney Channel exec VP Gary Marsh and VP Michael Healy have tacked on programming duties for ABC Family.
Sweeney, meanwhile, is up for an expanded gig overseeing both the Alphabet web and the cable group (Daily Variety, April 6).
It is believed that Sweeney is still meeting with other candidates. ABC Family had no comment.
Previously, Lee spent several years at the BBC, serving as executive producer for BBC Entertainment and channel editor for BBC Prime, BBC’s 24-hour entertainment channel.
Before joining the BBC in 1984, Lee worked as a production manager at the Brazilian network Rede Globo in Rio de Janeiro.