Scheduling Pro Gets Turn in the Upfront SpotlightCBS veteran Kubitz takes on new helming challenge at ABC 5/06/2013 12:01:00 AM Eastern
Andy Kubitz, ABC’s top scheduler, was lucky to have figured
out by the time he got to college that he wanted to pursue a
degree in communications and work in television. It was the
minor he earned in computer science, however, that may have
played an even bigger role in his professional success.
While studying at the University of Wisconsin-
Stevens Point, Kubitz started working on computers
to edit film and, recognizing that as the
future of the medium, he decided to work toward
the computer science minor. “It’s the only
reason I am where I am, I think,” he says.
The 42-year-old Kubitz joined ABC last September
as executive VP of program planning and
scheduling after spending 18 years at CBS. He
started his career there as a page in 1994 and
stood out by knowing how to use Excel at a time
when typewriters were still on desks. He used
those skills to generate formulas calculating the
number of repeats and originals on the schedule,
which was his first introduction to the department.
As an assistant, he helped develop CBS
software that automated the entire schedule and
communicated changes throughout the company,
serving as the liaison between the entertainment
division and the computer programmers.
“Andy upholds the unique combination of understanding
the nuances of our business with an
eye to the future,” says Nancy Tellem, former entertainment
president at CBS and now entertainment
and digital media president at Microsoft.
Kubitz calls his nearly two decades at CBS
“a master’s degree in stability and television
programming,” where he learned from seasoned
executives such as CBS Corp. CEO Leslie
Moonves and Kelly Kahl, senior VP of CBS
primetime (and fellow Wisconsinite). Ultimately,
it was the challenge of a different schedule at
ABC that convinced him to leave CBS, where
his career path had topped out, given the stability
within the executive ranks.
Fox executive VP of scheduling Dan Harrison,
who has known Kubitz for years and briefly
worked with him at CBS, says it’s no surprise
ABC would tap the well-groomed executive to
replace Jeff Bader, who jumped to NBC. He
notes that while the move to ABC was a bit of a
culture shock for Kubitz, he has adapted well.
All Eyes on the First Schedule
“It will be interesting to see his first schedule,”
Harrison says. “We all deal with whatever
cards development deals us. He’s been the No.
2 closest to the fire for a while, so it’s great that
he’s getting this opportunity.”
Of course, the demand for programming on
ABC’s schedule is much greater than at CBS—
ABC picked up 10 new scripted series last upfront
and has 24 pilots in contention this year.
Its short cycle of Dancing With the Stars and
emphasis on serialized dramas (that don’t repeat
well) creates gaps in the schedule in need
of alternative solutions.
Heading into next fall, Kubitz says, one of his
main priorities will be bringing stability back
to Tuesday night, where an attempted comedy
block of Happy Endings and Don’t Trust the B----
in Apartment 23 floundered this year and saw
weak seasons for Dancing With the Stars and
third-year drama Body of Proof. Another priority
is finding more family comedy—an important
piece of the network’s business model
—though he notes that all depends on how
ABC’s 12 comedy pilots turn out.
“The only thing we can do as schedulers is give
the opportunity for a show to be successful, and
that’s what I’m looking for,” Kubitz says. “I can’t
write it, I can’t produce it and I can’t direct it.”
ABC colleagues praise Kubitz for bringing
a fresh perspective and making the schedule
more of a discussion and debate among all the
members of the team.
“It feels like it’s a much more open dialogue
about scheduling, where things should go and
how we should launch them, and it’s nice to
have someone who’s so collaborative in that
role,” says Channing Dungey, senior VP of
drama development at ABC.
Kubitz grew up in Clintonville, Wis., a small
farming community of 4,500 people outside of
Green Bay. His father worked at a cheese factory;
his grandfather was a farmer. Now a married
father of two, Kubitz devotes much of his
free time to sports—watching college basketball
and football (he roots for his home-state
Wisconsin Badgers) or the NFL (Green Bay
Packers) and spending weekends cheering on
his sons (ages nine and five) at baseball practices
and games. Also an avid outdoorsman,
Kubitz hikes near his home in Los Angeles
and fishes and hunts in Wisconsin (where he’s
apt to post pictures on Facebook of deer he’s
bagged, to freak out his Hollywood friends).
Though he has spent nearly his entire career
in scheduling, he went back to school three
years ago when, after once again sensing a
shifting tide in the industry, he decided to earn
his M.B.A. to be better prepared for whatever
form television’s future content may take.
“In five to 10 years, I don’t know if scheduling
will be that important,” Kubitz says. “But
I think content strategy and finding how to
play or show programming across multiple
platforms will continue. And if that job is not
considered a scheduler, then I’d like to evolve
to whatever job that is.”
For now, however, stabilizing ABC’s primetime
is keeping him plenty busy in his first upfront
as the top scheduling guru.
“I’m very happy in what I’m doing,” he says.
“And right now, since I’m so new to this job,
the thought of moving anywhere in any direction