Groundbreaking Disney Executive Channing Dungey Stepping Down 

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Written by Ann Brown

It’s been less than three years since Channing Dungey stepped aboard the Walt Disney Co. team as president of ABC Entertainment Group, making her the first African American to lead entertainment programming at one of the big four broadcast networks.

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Now Dungey is exiting. She will be replaced by Karey Burke.

This announcement is part of a major shakeup going on over at Disney. “The entertainment giant said recently that key executives from 21st Century Fox Inc. would lead their combined television businesses after the companies complete their $71 billion merger early next year. Ben Sherwood, Dungey’s boss, is expected to leave the company after the merger,” Bloomberg reported.

Prior to joining Disney in February 2016, Dungey had a long career in TV show development, including working with hit show writer Shonda Rhimes

ABC President Channing Dungey arrives at the Women In Film Crystal and Lucy Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Wednesday, June 13, 2018, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

While at ABC, Dungey didn’t get the network out of fourth place but she did make some drastic moves. Some of them backfired.

She was behind the firing of Rosanne Barr from the revamp of “Rosanne” following the comedian’s racist slur against former Barack Obama aide Valerie Jarrett. Dungey revisioned the sitcom as “The Connors.” In the process, two of the network’s major show creators, Kenya Barris and Shonda Rhimes left for Netflix.

“As the head of the network, Dungey made several canny decisions meant to reframe ABC as the default choice for Middle America. What was until recently a network organized around the dramatic brilliance of Shonda Rhimes and the razor wit of Kenya Barris (“Black-ish” ) was to become the network of folksy, plainspoken conservatives (‘Roseanne’), sweetly aspirational music competition (‘American Idol’) and pleasant uplift (‘The Good Doctor’). But big bets tended to slightly underwhelm — the appetites and habits of the audience having changed since a show’s heyday, ‘American Idol’ was a success but not a smash — or in the case of ‘Roseanne,’ to blow up in all the wrong ways. And making matters worse, Dungey lost her network’s two signature creative forces, Rhimes and Barris, to Netflix,” Variety reported

Some feel that Dungey didn’t do enough to keep Rhimes or Barris. Barris parted ways with ABC over the handling of a “Black-ish” episode inspired by NFL players kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality. ABC did not air the episode.

Even with her efforts to lure back Middle America, it turns out Middle America is just like everyone else: many are enrapt by Netflix, HBO Go, and Fortnite.

“That ABC can’t even get reliable ratings for its signature live event, the Academy Awards, signals just how much the ground shifted under the feet of Dungey and every other broadcast TV executive. Dungey’s place in history is earned in part by having lived through so much of it so quickly. She may well be remembered less for what she did than for what she presided over: a network in the moment that networks’ primacy conclusively fell away,” Variety reported.