Nickelodeon, Sesame Workshop Alum Tom Ascheim Named President of ABC Family

Exec worked with Disney-ABC TV Group chief Anne Sweeney early in his career

Tom Ascheim ABC Family

Former Nickelodeon and Sesame Workshop exec Tom Ascheim has been tapped as president of ABC Family.

Ascheim has had a varied career in the media and magazine business, most recently serving as CEO of Newsweek and chief strategy officer of Sesame Workshop before starting a consulting firm, TEA Lane Media. He succeeds Michael Riley, who stepped down from the post in September.

Ascheim worked with Disney-ABC TV Group chief Anne Sweeney during their respective tenures at Nickelodeon.

“I always thought he was an incredibly smart, strategic executive. Since then, he has only reinforced my opinion of his abilities,” Sweeney said. “Whether in print, television, or the financial sector, Tom has gone from success to success. He has a proven capability of leading creative teams, and I’m thrilled that he’ll now bring his innovative, entrepreneurial spirit to bear on behalf of ABC Family and the Disney/ABC Television Group.”

Ascheim comes to ABC Family after the young adult-oriented cabler has been on a growth spurt with original series, both scripted and unscripted. ABC Family’s profile in the Disney-ABC cluster of channels has steadily grown as it scored with original skeins such as “Pretty Little Liars,” “Melissa and Joey,” “The Fosters,” “The Secret Life of the American Teenager.” The cabler has also been adept at using tele pics and programming stunts such as this month’s “25 Days of Christmas” into strong marketing platforms and ratings-grabbers.

“While ABC Family has accomplished so much already, I’m very confident that we have only just begun to tap its full potential,” Ascheim said.

Ascheim got his start in TV at Viacom in 1990, working in business development for Nickelodeon. He rose steadily through the ranks to exec VP and g.m. of Nickelodeon Television. He had a big hand in developing some of Nick’s first digital properties, and was a key player in the launch of preschool net Noggin.

He left Viacom in 2007 to join Newsweek as CEO, overseeing global operations of the news magazine. After four years, he joined Sesame Workshop, the production outfit behind “Sesame Street,” as exec VP of the Sesame Learning unit focused on developing on education products and services tied to the company’s TV productions.

Riley left ABC Family after three years at the cabler because of his desire to return to his home in Britain.