Just three weeks before she'll have to make its inaugural upfront pitch, Walt Disney Co. named ABC Daytime President Angela Shapiro head of ABC Family. Before schmoozing with media buyers and the press on April 30 in New York, she's going to have to move quickly to set the schedule for the channel ABC bought from Fox.
She says balancing the programming mix, from kids shows to repurposed ABC series like Alias, will be her biggest challenge. "When you say 'family channel,' the concept is quite broad to address ages and tastes in a family," said Shapiro, who will continue to oversee ABC Daytime until a successor is found.
She is not responsible for ABC Family's children's programming; ABC Cable President Anne Sweeney will oversee that.
Shapiro is credited with turning around ABC's daytime block. Now she needs to reinvent ABC Family. Disney ponied up $5.2 billion last fall to buy the former Fox Family channel from News Corp. and Saban Entertainment as a cable outlet to repurpose new series and older shows, like ABC's popular but defunct TGIF family block. ABC's Whose Line Is It Anyway?
and America's Funniest Home Videos
arrived on Family in January.
But Shapiro cautioned that not every ABC network series is right for Family. "You have to look at the shows themselves and how they fit into entire schedule."
ABC's hyped new legal drama The Court
could wind up on ABC Family, although Shapiro said there are no plans yet.
There have already been some hard bumps as Disney took Family over. In January, 300 former Fox Family staffers were axed, mostly from administration and back-office positions. The channel is still locked in a carriage battle with EchoStar Communications. The DBS company threatened to pull Family from its Dish Network, and only a restraining order kept Family from going dark. Two recent hearings have been postponed as the two sides try to negotiate out of court.
Shapiro's appointment last Wednesday came one day after transitional chief Maureen Smith resigned. While Smith's resignation was expected, ABC Television chief Steve Bornstein's choice of Shapiro surprised some cable insiders. Experienced cable execs like former Hallmark CEO Margaret Loesch and, in past months, Lifetime Chairwoman Carole Black had been floated as possible candidates, athough Lifetime insists that Black, leader of cable's best-watched network, wasn't interested.
For her part, Smith, a longtime Fox exec, said she never intended to lead the channel long-term under Disney ownership. "I made a commitment five months ago to stay through the channel's transition, and my contribution is now complete," she said in a statement.