Chang fills Shanks role at DirecTV

With former programming topper gone, transition has been smooth

DirecTV exec Derek Chang has emerged as the top programmer at satcaster DirecTV following the recent departure of entertainment prexy Eric Shanks.

Shanks left DirecTV for Fox Sports three months ago. Since then, Chang, who is exec veep of content strategy and development, has taken on the responsibility of scheduling for DirecTV’s 101 Network channel and other programming duties.

Chang’s biggest deal since Shanks’ exit was the two-season pickup of the Sony Pictures TV-produced “Damages” (Daily Variety, July 20). The series, formerly on FX, is set to resume production in January.

Although exec changes are still possible, satcaster insiders say DirecTV CEO Michael White has decided to keep Chang in charge of programming in the interim, and possibly for the long haul.

“From a broader standpoint, it was a loss to lose Eric,” Chang told Daily Variety. “He was the thought leader on original productions, the 101 and sports. Clearly, he exceled at that sort of stuff and managed a lot of business for us.”

However, Chang, who helped create the hugely profitable YES (Yankees Entertainment and Sports) Network about 10 years ago, also has a strong sports background. He worked closely with Shanks in acquiring “The Dan Patrick Show,” a low-cost simulcast of the former ESPN “SportsCenter” anchor’s weekday morning radio show.

Shanks’ sports expertise was also instrumental in finding a place for drama series “Friday Night Lights,” which will launch its fifth and final season on Oct. 27 and averages roughly 750,000 viewers an episode. DirecTV airs the show commercial-free on the 101 before NBC repeats the episodes a few months later.

In what many considered a surprise, leads Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton were both nominated for acting Emmys, after getting passed over for the first three years of the show. The noms give DirecTV, which shares production costs with the Peacock, more of a public spotlight.

“The show puts what we’re doing at the 101 into sharp focus,” Chang said.

The programming strategy going forward, Chang said, will rely more on acquisitions than originals, acknowledging that DirecTV hasn’t budgeted the coin necessary to produce original series.

The 101 Network’s current lineup includes a mix of acquired programming — HBO’s “The Wire,” a second season of Oz import “Underbelly” — and originals, including “The Supreme Court of Comedy,” shot from the Laugh Factory on the Sunset Strip.