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Nancy Dubuc Takes CEO Reins of A+E; Abbe Raven Becomes Chairman

Promotions recognize company's growth, extends pair's long-running partnership

Nancy Dubuc’s rise to the top of A+E Networks is now complete. The exec who has steered the group encompassing A&E Network, History and Lifetime to new heights will be promoted to prexy and CEO of the parent org, jointly owned by Disney and Hearst Corp., as of June 1.

Dubuc (pictured right) will take the reins from Abbe Raven, who advances to chairman. Dubuc will have oversight of all operations at A&E Network, History, Lifetime and related cablers, reporting to Raven (pictured left) and the A+E board of directors, led by Disney/ABC TV Group boss Anne Sweeney and Hearst Corp. prexy-COO Steven Swartz.

Dubuc’s promotion comes in recognition of the unprecedented success the group has had in the past year with A&E fielding a top 10 primetime series in “Duck Dynasty” and History competing on a new plane with high-profile longform fare including “Hatfields & McCoys” and “The Bible” and unscripted hits such as “Pawn Stars.” Lifetime, which Dubuc took over in 2010, is banking on building on its recent ratings momentum this year with the launch of scripted drama “Devious Maids” and a range of other shows.

Dubuc was upped in September to prexy of entertainment for A+E Networks, which was a half-step move done with the understanding that she would take over as CEO this year. It’s no secret that Dubuc has been courted by rival congloms, including Viacom and NBCUniversal, in recent months. A+E leaders were eager to keep her in the fold and maintain her partnership with Raven.

With 10 linear channels, digital, homevid and international distribution operations, A+E’s earnings rival other large cable groups, but the company has a lower profile than its competitors because it is privately held. The company was valued at more than $20 billion last year when Disney and Hearst bought out Comcast’s 15.8% stake in A+E for $3.03 billion, a sale mandated by the feds as part of Comcast’s acquisition of NBCUniversal.

“This leadership move is an reflection of how big a media company we are. It’s about recognizing the importance of content in a rapidly evolving business landscape,” Dubuc told Variety. “You can have whatever platform you want but without great content you don’t have anything. Maximizing the monetization of our content is key to our future success.”

Dubuc credited Raven with building the company’s strong foundation and for serving as a mentor and role model in her own career. Raven recruited Dubuc into the fold in 1999 as a programming exec at A&E Network, and the two have climbed the ranks together. Dubuc rose at A&E and in 2007 became head of History, where she orchestrated the channel’s makeover from a fusty outlet focused on war docus to more general unscripted entertainment fare and highly promoted event programming.

Raven joined A&E Network more than 30 years ago, and was upped to CEO of the parent company in 2005.
“In the time I’ve been here our earnings have tripled. I couldn’t be more proud of our growth,” Raven said. “Part of what a good CEO does is plan for the future. We’ve invested heavily in a great programming team. A lot of creativity and innovation has gone into getting us where we are today. I’m very excited to see our next CEO come from our ranks.”

Raven and Dubuc also cited the support from parent companies Hearst and Disney in helping to grow the channels and the parent company, which has the best-of-both-worlds flexibility of operating autonomously but with access to deeper resources when needed. Being a private company has also helped them focus on long-term growth because they are not beholden to quarterly earnings performance.

“You can’t manage the creative process on a quarterly basis,” Dubuc said. “The way we’re structured has really helped us grow.”
At the same time, Raven and Dubuc were quick to praise the loyal team of execs at the various channels who have worked together for many years. Dubuc’s top lieutenants at History and Lifetime — Dirk Hoogstra and Robert Sharenow, respectively — are likely to advance on the heels of Dubuc’s ascent to CEO, as is Bob DeBitetto, the longtime programming topper at A&E.

“In the same way that Abbe is being rewarded for a job well done, it’s important to recognize that the growth of our company has been done on the backs of a lot of good people around us,” Dubuc said.

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