Pasadena, Calif. — ABC Entertainment President Karey Burke took the TCA stage Tuesday for the first time in her new role, and the exec was peppered with questions about the Oscars, which will air on ABC Feb. 24.
"It did [worry me],” said Burke of the controversy surrounding Kevin Hart, who stepped down as host of the awards telecast following controversial tweets he had made surfaced. “It no longer does.”
Producers have not chosen a host to replace Hart and instead will keep the show about the presenters and movies.
“Ironically, I have found that the lack of clarity around the Oscars has kept the Oscars really in the conversation and that the mystery has been really compelling,” she said. “People really care. I think it's fascinating."
The Oscars and other awards shows have suffered from waning ratings recently, something Burke said the network is keeping in mind.
"Awards shows ratings are down across the board. So it is a challenge," said Burke. "And one that I think we have to keep very vigilant about, making sure that the show stays relevant and entertaining and at a pace and a length that is good for the audience."
This year the Academy has promised to keep the Oscars telecast to three hours. Burke added that the nominated blockbusters will help.
"I think people actually care about who is going to win," she said of movies such as Black Panther.
The exec, who assumed the role of ABC Entertainment president in November, said she wants to return the network to its roots as a destination for women. "NBC just came on really strong and took that mantle away with shows like This Is Us," she said, explaining that she is choosing pilots from development that are more female forward but still appeal to males.
Also on the horizon for Burke is Disney's acquisition of Fox, which is expected to close soon.
"I for one am very excited about the future and can't wait for it to get done and for us to get started," said Burke. She added, "There already is a great synergy between our two companies and I am looking forward to more."