The new president of ABC News is ready to shake up This Week with Christiane Amanpour.
Ben Sherwood, who took over the reins of ABC News from David Westin last month, said Monday at the Television Critics Association winter press tour that he wants to focus "on making the best possible program for Christiane and her many strengths... This Week can do more to showcase Christiane's prodigious talents in another way for viewers and that's what we're going to be doing."
While ABC replaced This Week anchor George Stephanopoulos with an established star in the former CNN foreign correspondent, ratings have been in decline. There has also been talk that Amanpour wants to move the show from Washington, D.C. to New York where she lives. Sherwood indicated a move out of the Beltway is unlikely. "The subject of her desire for the show's location has never come up," he said. "I've made it very clear that I consider it a very vital program in Washington."
Sherwood also indicated that he's open to a union of ABC News and Bloomberg Television, which has millions of cable and satellite subscribers around the world for its financial news service. "We are open to all kinds of opportunities, both on the cable side and also on the digital side," he said. "We're always looking for partnerships to expand the reach of ABC, and that can happen through all kinds of partnerships, whether it's cable, digital or other."
ABC News, like CBS News, is challenged by not having a 24-hour cable platform to help amortize the cost of newsgathering. One reason the ABC News job went to Sherwood instead of a network insider is that he will take an unsentimental look at how to keep ABC News running profitably in the face of declining ratings and the abundance of round-the-clock news sources viewers can now choose from. The network has previously discussed an alliance with Bloomberg, and while no deal is imminent, it sounds like the two sides will be talking again.
Meanwhile, new ABC Entertainment chief Paul Lee is still on that honeymoon period that people in his job have before they have to pick up any actual new shows. He did offer up some marketing-speak about how his vision of the ABC brand is "smart with heart."
"We really make culturally defining, smart, big tent, aspirational television," he told the TCA crowd. "And that's how I see this brand and this network going forward into the future."
Does the The Incredible Hulk fit into that category? A live action version of the evergreen Marvel character is among the shows Lee is considering for the fall. Now that Marvel Comics is part of the Disney ABC family, Lee is eager to have one of those properties on his network. "We would love to make a Marvel franchise work on the network," he said.
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