After six years as ABC Entertainment Group President, Steve McPherson has resigned from the company. When McPherson first took the reins of the ABC primetime lineup the network was stuck in fourth place behind direct competitors CBS, FOX, and NBC. Throughout his career as president he oversaw many of ABC’s well known hits and misses. He had a hand in launching the uber-successful primetime dramas like Lost, Grey’s Anatomy, and Desperate Housewives; the new Wednesday night comedy lineup including Modern Family, Cougartown, and The Middle; and one of most watched reality programs Dancing With the Stars. During his early days, though, he was there when the network overplayed “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” until its eventual cancellation. He has also been faulted with not pushing hard enough for procedural dramas (like CBS’ The Mentalist) as opposed to the heavily serialized shows like Lost. As great as a show Lost was (and always will be), shows like it are hard to repeat and syndicate once they are completed. His final year with ABC (2009-2010) landed the network in third place, just 150,000 viewers ahead of NBC.
The sudden resignation comes on the heels of the Summer TV Press Tour 2010, a time when the big networks show off and promote their fall TV lineups. Yesterday “an informed source” leaked information saying that McPherson was tied up in a formal investigation conducted by ABC related to sexual harrassment crimes. ABC has not responded to comment, nor have they denied the rumors. McPherson’s lawyer states that his client “made a voluntary decision to resign, and ABC accepted his resignation. It is not uncommon for high-level executives to be the subject of gossip and innuendo.” Whatever the case may be, McPherson is out and a replacement has not been decided upon yet. ABC Family president Paul Lee, riding high on his recent teen-hit Pretty Little Liars, is expected to occupy the now-vacant position. McPherson’s parting words:
“I want to thank the wonderful team of individuals who have worked with me throughout my time here and wish them nothing but the best.”
Update: It’s official. Paul Lee is the new ABC Entertainment Group President and will oversee the network’s primetime lineup and its sister company, ABC Studios. If he can do to ABC what he did with ABC Family (Kyle XY, The Secret Life of the American Teenager, Pretty Little Liars, Greek) this network might have a fighting chance against behemoths FOX and CBS.