Only a few months ago, veteran ABC executive and on-air boxing analyst Alex Wallau (rhymes with swallow) wasn't particularly keen on becoming the network's next president.
Well, things have changed.
Wallau, who was named interim ABC Television Network president in March-after Pat Fili-Krushel resigned-agreed to stay last week. Wallau, a longtime New Yorker, is moving to Los Angeles.
"I didn't want to be the No. 1 person at all," says Wallau, who had been president of ABC's operations and administration divisions since August 1998. "I was very comfortable being the No. 2 person, being the behind-the-scenes guy. There were things I didn't feel I was necessarily well suited for, in terms of leadership and other areas. I thought people would find it difficult to adjust to me being in a different role." But after serving four months in the interim post, and finding that people seemed to be adjusting just fine, Wallau says he was won over.
He certainly has the credentials. He's been at the network since 1976, having started his career as head of on-air promotion at ABC Sports. He moved into programming to become a two-time Emmy-winning producer and director of ABC's sports coverage in 1986.
Then, he moved in front of the cameras as ABC's leading boxing analyst-a position he still holds and says he will continue to hold. He moved into the ABC front office in 1993 as vice president of the ABC Television Network and was named executive vice president in 1996.
"Alex brings terrific intelligence, decisiveness and experience to this post," says ABC Broadcast Group President Robert Callahan, to whom Wallau will report. "He has the added advantage of knowing the ABC Television Network from both sides of the camera and has excelled in both management and production."
Having overseen the network's operations and engineering divisions, Wallau says he has a good understanding of what ABC will be getting into as television moves into the digital age.
"We just came off a record upfront for prime time, and we're bringing in more revenue than ever, but that doesn't change the fact that we need to fundamentally change the way we do business in terms of the cost of programming and trying to figure out and rationalize the distribution of programming.
"We need to be very smart about what we do with our traditional-media business, and we also need to be smart about how we migrate that traditional-media business into the new-media platforms. But more than that, we need to figure out, as a content company, how we can find completely new content to reach people on the new distribution systems that technology is going to provide."