Jonnie Davis to Head ABC Studios, Patrick Moran Out, as Disney TV Studios Restructures

Jonnie Davis Carolyn Cassidy Howard Kurtzman Josh Sussman
Davis: Courtesy of Jonnie Davis; Cassidy: Courtesy of Carolyn Cassidy; Kurtzman: Howard Kurtzman; Sussman: Courtesy of Josh Sussman

Disney Television Studios has named Jonnie Davis president of ABC Studios, amid a restructuring in the wake of the Disney-Fox merger that has resulted in the displacement of current head Patrick Moran and ABC Studios executive vice president Howard Davine.

Moran and Davine were both well liked, according to a person familiar with the matter, but Disney TV Studios president Craig Hunegs wanted to infuse ABC Studios with “new blood.”

In an internal memo that Hunegs sent to staff, he acknowledged that “change can be difficult in the short term,” and that “Dana (Walden) and I will do our best to communicate with you often, with transparency and clarity.”

Succeeding Davis is Carolyn Cassidy, who has been upped to president of creative affairs at 20th Century Fox Television, and will run the studio with current president of business operations Howard Kurtzman. Cassidy was most recently executive VP of current programming.

As part of the restructuring, Josh Sussman is moving over from 20th, and will be promoted to ABC Studios executive VP of business affairs, reporting to Davis. He replaces Davine.

Davis, Cassidy and Kurtzman will report to Hunegs.

“This exceptional group is uniquely qualified to continue building our position as the strongest studios in the industry and the very best home for talent,” said Hunegs in a statement. No layoffs were involved in the restructuring.

Davis had been with 20th since 2008, first joining as senior VP of comedy development and rising to executive VP of comedy. He later became executive VP of comedy and animation development before being appointed president of creative affairs alongside Kurtzman. Davis helped to develop “This Is Us,” “Modern Family,” “New Girl,” “Fresh Off the Boat,” “Last Man on Earth,” and “Last Man Standing,” and oversaw 20th’s expansion into animation development. Prior to his time at 20th, Davis was VP of comedy development at FBC.

“Jonnie is a great leader with infectious energy and optimism, as well as an incredible partner to our creators. The award-winning quality, diversity and sheer number of series he developed and oversaw at 20th, along with the relationships he has with writers, producers, directors and actors, are second to none. Together with Josh, a gifted business affairs strategist, Jonnie is poised to take ABC Studios to even greater levels of success.”

Cassidy was most recently executive VP of current series for 20th Century Fox TV, running the current series department since 2015. There, she oversaw the executive team that managed live-action TV series for platforms such as FBC, ABC, NBC, FX, Hulu, Disney Plus, and Netflix, and developed shows such as “This Is Us” and “Empire.” She first joined 20th in 2009 as VP of comedy series, where she developed “New Girl,” “Fresh Off the Boat,” and “Last Man Standing.” Cassidy began her career as a current exec at NBC, and previously served as a comedy development exec at ABC Studios.

Hunegs called Cassidy “an absolute star creative executive with extraordinary leadership skills, a deep understanding of the studio and great relationships with our creators and entire company,” and said she and Kurtzman will “make a formidable team.”

Sussman has served as senior VP of business affairs at 20th since 2016; prior to that, he was executive VP of business affairs and general counsel at Electus, and VP, GC of programming at IAC/InterActiveCorp. He began his career as an associate at the law firm of Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker LLP.

“With Fox 21 Television Studios remaining under Bert Salke and Vibiana Molina overseeing business affairs, these three dynamic companies have the exceptional leadership to ensure Disney Television Studios remains a world-class studio and the best home for creators and great storytelling,” said Hunegs.

Here is the memo Hunegs circulated internally:

Dear colleagues, 

We will shortly be announcing changes to our leadership at ABC Studios and Twentieth Century Fox Television.  

Jonnie Davis, who has done fantastic work leading the creative team at 20th, is moving to ABC Studios as President, effective immediately. Josh Sussman, a gifted and creative deal maker, will also move from 20th to ABC Studios as Executive Vice President, Business Affairs, reporting to Jonnie.  

At 20th Century Fox Television, we are really pleased to announce that Carolyn Cassidy has been promoted to President, Creative Affairs. She will run the studio together with Howard Kurtzman, President, Business Operations. They are exceptional leaders.  

Patrick Moran and Howard Davine will be stepping down from their current roles and I have enormous respect for all they have achieved in their careers at ABC Studios. Patrick has developed and overseen many landmark series and has an excellent slate of new shows. I have known Howard for many years and he is one of the most accomplished and effective business affairs executives in our industry, having made a number of groundbreaking deals and run an excellent business. Together they have brought to ABC Studios a wonderful group of writers, producers and executives and made a lasting contribution to The Walt Disney Company. 

From the launch of Disney Television Studios just over 100 days ago, Dana and I have worked with you to make our studios a home for the most talented people to create the most compelling and entertaining television. In our early days, DTS has added promising new shows, continued to win awards and brought to our studio even more of the best creators. We thank all of you for your excellent work and for creating a new spirit of collaboration. 

I know that change can be difficult in the short term. Dana and I will do our best to communicate with you often, with transparency and clarity. We promise you that the years ahead will be filled with creating great television, with great people, having much fun along the way. The best is unquestionably yet to come.