ABC's Paul Lee Inks New Multiyear Contract
Paul Lee is staying put at ABC.
The entertainment group president has inked a new multiyear deal to continue at ABC, where he has been at the helm since the summer of 2010. Additionally, he will continue to oversee the in-house studio responsible for such series as Grey's Anatomy, Scandal and the half-hour Trophy Wife.
The news comes after his boss, Anne Sweeney, announced she'd be stepping down in early 2015. Sweeney will be replaced by news honcho Ben Sherwood, who is credited with lifting morning show Good Morning America to victory in a competitive race that saw Today as the top-rated offering for 16 consecutive years.
Lee's ABC hasn't logged the same kind of gains. ABC's primetime offerings are poised to round out another season in fourth place, with little help from a freshman slate that includes short-lived offerings Lucky 7, Killer Women and Back in the Game. The network was in such poor shape heading into mid-season that rumors began to swirl that Lee was unlikely to last through his current contract. March entry Resurrection, which got a big marketing push during ABC's highly rated Academy Awards telecast, proved a much-needed shot in the arm for the network as well as Lee.
ABC is poised to round out another season in fourth place. Well into mid-season, it is last among the Big Four, with an average 2.1 rating among adults 18-49 and 7.5 million viewers in total. One bright spot has been the Sunday launch for Resurrection. The series, while dropping significantly in same-day showings, is averaging a robust 4.3 rating in the key demo after DVR views.
In public forums, the British exec has been quick to note ABC's lack of sports is to blame in the network's ranking -- Disney sibling ESPN keeps ABC from airing any football games -- and often looks to position the broadcast net as a destination for women. What's more, he has said that time shifting makes ABC's programming much more competitive, but none of ABC's freshman class have benefited significantly from DVR plays.
Lee joined ABC nearly four years ago, after former chief Steve McPherson abruptly left the network. His ascension came after a successful tenure at ABC Family, where he transformed that network, best known for Pat Robertson's 700 Club, into the destination for lucrative teen-targeted franchises. At ABC, Lee inherited a network with multiple aging hits (Lost and Desperate Housewives, both since departed) and has since added to the portfolio a growing collection of on-brand soaps, including Revenge, Once Upon a Time and breakout Scandal.