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ABC’s reality chief John Saade is out.
The unscripted veteran has been at the network since 2004 and has had a hand in a number of reality efforts, including Dancing With the Stars, Shark Tank, Wipeout and The Bachelor. In his role as ABC Entertainment’s executive vp alternative series and late-night programming, he oversaw all of the network’s primetime unscripted series as well as its late-night programming.
“John is a very talented executive who has made enormous contributions to ABC and the reality genre, developing some truly innovative, buzz worthy programming and growing some of our most important franchises,” ABC Entertainment Group president Paul Lee said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. “We will miss his passion and enthusiasm and wish him nothing but the very best.”
News of Saade’s departure comes at a particularly challenged time in the broadcast reality business. Outside of NBC’s The Voice, the genre has failed to produce a significant hit despite big money spent on shiny-floor, tentpole programming in recent years. The latest misfire came from NBC, where pricey trivia show Million Second Quiz shed viewership at an alarming pace early in its 10-episode run. (Among ABC’s duds: Duets, a 2012 Voice rival that fell flat despite Kelly Clarkson and Robin Thicke as judges.) Instead, the mix of ratings and buzz has shifted to cable, where A&E has scored particularly big with docuseries Duck Dynasty. Illustrative of that trend, Saade’s job is expected to be filled by former E! chief Lisa Berger, who is responsible for another cable docuseries juggernaut, Keeping Up With the Kardashian and its myriad spinoffs.
Proof of the genre’s woes: This marks the third network reality chief to depart since May. Fox’s Mike Darnell (now at Warner Bros.) exited this spring, while CBS’ Jennifer Bresnan announced she’d be stepping down midsummer. Bresnan was replaced by her No. 2, Chris Castallo, but Fox has yet to fill Darnell’s role, a commentary on the lack of clarity about where the unscripted business is headed. The last man standing among the broadcast heads is NBC’s Paul Telegdy, who is counting on Voice returning big after MSQ failed to find an audience.
Between stints at ABC, Saade dabbled as an independent producer, a role to which he could potentially return. At that time, he produced the 2003 U.S. edition of I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here. Before ABC, he was at Dakota Films, where his credits included The Best Commercials You’ve Never Seen and In Style’s Celebrity Weddings. The Ohio native got his start as a runner at Dick Clark Productions.
THR obtained the letter Saade shared with his staff this morning:
“I’ve always said that the eventuality of getting fired is the price to be paid for a job as great as the one I was granted here, and who wouldn’t go through this punch for Dancing (especially after the reboot Monday night), and Shark Tank, Wipeout, JKL, Bachelor, and all the other brilliant beacons and misguided messes, relishing the chaotic creative process, with producers as close as family, fostering fearlessness, fighting, respecting and persevering every day with friends and colleagues and heroes like Jimmy Kimmel. But most of all, everything we do starts and ends with team and trust, and I was able to spend part of every work day with (in geographical order) Mark, Tim, Corie, Sarba, Joey, Rob, Michelle, DM, Monica, Asta, Chelsey, Danielle, and Mitch – I’d be misting up as I type your names, if I misted.
Under the stress and pace of the job, I sincerely apologize for any rude behavior. It wasn’t called for, and don’t hold it against me when we work together in the future. Because I am genuinely excited by what’s next. I know this bruise will heal, the inevitable jabs will be forgotten, and 13+ years of ABC memories and relationships will remain.”
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