When Channing Dungey closes a door, a bunch of other doors open.
Dungey’s next move has become a subject of speculation in Hollywood’s creative community. Sources tell Variety that the departing ABC Entertainment president is already being pursued by a number of potential suitors for what could be her next big job — Netflix among them.
Buzz around a possible gig for Dungey at Netflix began with the announcement last month that she would leave ABC, and has only grown louder since. What exactly she would do at the streaming service has yet to come into focus. Dungey enjoys a strong personal and professional relationship with Shonda Rhimes, who left ABC Studios last year for an overall deal at Netflix. Prior to becoming head of programming at ABC, Dungey led the network’s drama development, and worked with Rhimes to launch “Scandal” and “How to Get Away With Murder.” At Netflix, Rhimes has a massive slate of new projects — eight shows and growing — and could no doubt use an expert hand to help guide a programming pipeline at Shondaland that is larger than that of some cable channels.
Sources tell Variety that Dungey is being courted by Netflix for a role as a content development executive. Netflix already has a respected development head in Cindy Holland, who reports to chief content officer, Ted Sarandos. But the company has found creative ways in the past to establish new perches of power for high-profile execs — such as it did when it hired former Universal Television chief Bela Bajaria, who with Brandon Riegg runs a unit parallel to Holland’s that is focused on unscripted programming.
A Netflix spokesperson declined to comment for this article. Dungey did not respond to a request for comment.
The addition of Dungey could also be a benefit for Holland. Just last year at the Produced By conference, Sarandos bragged in an interview with Jerry Seinfeld that all Netflix programming executives have the authority to order a project straight to series off of a pitch. Sources tell Variety that is no longer the case. Mid-level execs are now obliged to run pitches up the flagpole to Holland. Given Netflix’s volume — at the beginning of the year the company projected that it would have more than 700 original series by the end of 2018 — more senior execs would be helpful in the effort to keep company’s development pipeline from bursting.
Dungey did not respond to a request to comment for this story. A Netflix insider expressed to Variety that the streamer is not the only company interested in working with her. Already an admired programmer with strong creative relationships — and the first African-American to lead a U.S. broadcast network’s content division — Dungey’s public profile grew this year with her decisive handling of “Roseanne” star Roseanne Barr’s racist tweets. Dungey moved quickly to pull the plug on television’s highest rated show, then worked with producer Tom Werner to reconstitute the show’s cast for spinoff “The Conners.”
Dungey has met in recent weeks with execs at multiple companies to discuss options for her future — and is still technically at ABC until the end of this week. She made an appearance last month at the network’s holiday party, a move that was seen as a show of support for incoming entertainment president Karey Burke. Speculation about Dungey’s future will continue to flourish until her next move is set.