Anne Sweeney has turned to a rising star — and relative Mouse House newcomer — to take the reins of ABC Family.
Radio Disney exec Michael Riley has been tapped to succeed Paul Lee as prexy of the ABC Family cabler, which has blossomed into a success story for Disney under Lee’s leadership during the past few years. Lee was recruited last month to take the helm of the ABC network and ABC Studios production operation, following the hasty exit of Stephen McPherson (Daily Variety, July 28).
Riley joined Radio Disney as senior veep and g.m. in April 2008 after spending more than a decade at Turner Broadcasting, mostly working in the international arena in launching Turner-branded channels and overseeing marketing and distribution operations.
Before joining Disney he was Turner’s senior VP and g.m. for Europe, Middle East and Africa.
“Michael’s talent and drive are eclipsed only by the enthusiasm and passion he brings to every opportunity. I’m confident his unique set of skills and experience will help us further ABC Family’s amazing momentum,” said Disney-ABC TV Group prexy Sweeney in announcing the appointment.
Riley’s track record at Turner impressed Sweeney, particularly as Disney’s cable group focuses on international markets as a key growth driver.
It’s understood that the Radio Disney posting for Riley was always envisioned as temporary until a higher-profile operational gig became available. Riley has managed a swift ascent by Mouse House standards, especially for an exec with only a few years at the company.
Riley said he was looking forward to “the opportunity to help build this amazing millennial brand,” noting the young adult-centric cabler’s hot streak with original series “driven by innovative storytelling, unique characters and iconic branding.”
At Radio Disney, Riley is credited with pumping up the kid-friendly radio programming service by expanding its online presence and better integrating Radio Disney operations with other Disney units.
At ABC Family, Riley will oversee all aspects of original programming, acquisitions, sales and marketing.
The cabler has been on a roll with teen- and young femme-target skeins such as “Pretty Little Liars,” “Huge,” “The Secret Life of the American Teenager” and “Make It Or Break It.”