10:00am PT by Lesley Goldberg
Channing Dungey to Oversee Originals With Cindy Holland at Netflix
A month after exiting ABC, Channing Dungey is officially joining Netflix.
In a move many anticipated, the former ABC Entertainment president will share the vp originals title with Cindy Holland, to whom she will report. Sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that Dungey will also have a direct line to content chief Ted Sarandos. She will start in February.
In her new role, Dungey will partner with Holland in setting strategic direction as well as oversee a large and what Netflix described as a "crucial portion" of the slate — including some of the company's overall deals with producers including the Obamas and their Higher Ground Productions, Shonda Rhimes, Kenya Barris, Jenji Kohan, Steven DeKnight and Marti Noxon, among others. Dungey will oversee half of Holland's existing group of programming executives at Netflix. That group, the largest at Netflix, has worked on the streamer's biggest series, including House of Cards, Orange Is the New Black, Narcos and The Crown, among others.
Dungey's new role reunites her with Rhimes and Barris, with whom she developed Scandal and Black-ish for ABC and ABC Studios, respectively. Dungey's anticipated move to Netflix had the industry abuzz over the weekend, with speculation swirling as to whether she would report directly to Holland or have a silo-like position similar to Bela Bajaria. Monday's announcement is described as a "newly created leadership role," making the position a bit of both. Since departing ABC a month ago, speculation had focused on Dungey either joining one of two Netflix-based production companies: Rhimes' Shondaland or the Obamas' Higher Ground. The new role gives her greater oversight of both companies and more.
"I'm drawn to the forward-thinking, risk-taking and creative culture at Netflix, and the deeply talented people there, especially Ted and Cindy, with whom I’m excited to partner on setting the strategy for original content," Dungey said Monday in a statement. "Given that ABC, the place I’ve called home for nearly 15 years, represents the gold standard of traditional broadcast, it feels like the perfect next step for me to join Netflix, the unparalleled leader in streaming. I'm invigorated by the challenges ahead and the opportunity to forge new relationships, and excited for the very welcome reunion with incredible talent."
Dungey joined the Walt Disney Co. in 2004 and spent the bulk her career at ABC — first at ABC Studios and then at ABC Entertainment. She previously led ABC Studios' drama department and helped build Rhimes' TV empire from the ground up with a key role in the development of Scandal and casting Kerry Washington. Later, Dungey became the first black woman to lead a major U.S. TV network.
She opted to step down as ABC Entertainment president last month despite efforts to keep her on by incoming Disney TV Studios chairman Dana Walden, who was previously her former rival at Fox Broadcasting Co. Walden and Peter Rice will assume top leadership roles with Disney once its $72 billion deal to acquire Fox assets, including 20th TV and FX, among others, closes in 2019. (Freeform's Karey Burke was tapped to replace Dungey as ABC Entertainment president.)
"Channing is a creative force whose taste and talent have earned her the admiration of her peers across the industry," said Sarandos. "She’s a risk-taker and ground-breaker and talent love working with her. I couldn’t be happier to welcome her to Netflix."
Added Holland: "We’re delighted to be adding Channing’s expertise, leadership and deep experience to Netflix, and I look forward to partnering with her as we continue to grow and evolve our global network. I have been a fan of her character and approach from our early days as executives."
Dungey is a respected executive with relationships among top showrunners and talent, and gives Netflix someone with experience on both the network and studio side. In addition, she has relationships with studio chiefs, though Netflix has been increasingly focused on content ownership.
Dungey joins Netflix as it has had issues with diversity in the executive ranks. The streamer in August hired Verna Myers to serve in the newly created role of head of "inclusion strategy" after Netflix in June fired its top communications spokesman, Jonathan Friedland, after "insensitive" remarks he made to his team, which included the use of the N-word. The company also saw director of originals programming Tara Duncan and TV development exec Layne Eskridge depart. The duo at the time served as the only black TV execs on the originals team.
Dungey's decision to leave and go to rival Netflix comes as Disney has been aggressively ramping up its forthcoming direct-to-consumer streaming service. It eventually plans to pull its Marvel movies from Netflix, as they will move to Disney+. The relationship between the two companies has soured of late, prompting Netflix to cancel three of Disney's Marvel originals (Iron Fist, Luke Cage and Daredevil) as only two (Jessica Jones, The Punisher) remain. To counter Disney's moves, Netflix has been aggressive in pursuing ABC talent (poaching Rhimes and Barris with years remaining on their ABC Studios deals) as well as in signing comic book creators to lessen the blow of Marvel's forthcoming departure.
Dungey becomes the second major broadcast executive to depart for streaming services. In February, NBC Entertainment president Jennifer Salke left for the top job as head of film and TV at Amazon Studios.