Why Are TV's Top Male Executives Being Replaced by ... Men?

Getty Images; Courtesy of Hulu; Courtesy of FOX
David Madden, Randy Freer, Michael Thorn, Mike Hopkins

The industry touts female empowerment, but a slew of new hirings proves there's a long way to go before women share control.

In 2017, Apple, Sony TV, AMC, Hulu, CBS and Epix all replaced their top man, and that term isn't being used as shorthand. In every single case, the white male executive was replaced by another white man at the top.

In an industry where inclusion is touted as a priority, but reality is revealed in the daily onslaught of sexual harassment allegations, insiders are voicing frustration over the lack of women hired. "This is a moment where people are asking, 'How can we make sure [harassment] doesn't happen again?'" says Studio 8 TV head Katherine Pope. "It feels like a strategic error to [ignore] a huge group of the country in your leadership."

Onscreen, shows like ABC's Fresh Off the Boat and Netflix's One Day at a Time are paving new diverse ground. Behind the camera, networks have diversity mandates. And good old broadcast is actually above the curve in top job inclusiveness, with Channing Dungey at ABC, Dana Walden at Fox and Pearlena Igbokwe at Universal TV. But while outlets like AMC point to a number of women in key roles, few are truly calling the shots.

Apple, for example, entered the scripted space this year and, like other tech companies, installed white men (chief content officers Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht, and development heads Matt Cherniss and Morgan Wandell). The same is true at Hulu, which hired Joel Stillerman from AMC and promoted Randy Freer to CEO after Mike Hopkins moved to Sony as chairman, joining new co-presidents Jeff Frost, Jason Clodfelter and Chris Parnell. "There needs to be a better balance in the senior-most positions," says Katie O'Connell Marsh, CEO of Platform One Media and a former vp at NBC. "A token female is not enough. We need women curating the slate."

Some sources maintain that female candidates were approached for top jobs at AMC, Amazon Studios and other outlets; but many supposed candidates say their phones never rang despite industry speculation that they were recruited.

"It's the Hillary Clinton syndrome," says Pope. "You have to be an expert before you're qualified. Men get to grow into a job." Adds one senior exec who spoke on background to protect her job: "If Apple had hired all women, it would have been a story: 'It's all soaps because women aren't capable.' When it's all men, it's fine." While all the women THR spoke with acknowledged the qualifications of the men hired, as one put it: "In a post-Trump world, it gave people permission to care a little less about inclusion."

A version of this story first appeared in the 2017 Women in Entertainment Power 100 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.