An African American executive has never held the top spot at one of television’s “big four” broadcast networks—CBS, ABC, NBC and Fox—until now. And the programming whiz busting through that barrier is a woman: Channing Dungey, who was named president of ABC Entertainment yesterday afternoon.
Dungey, who began her Hollywood career as an assistant at 20th Century Fox, has been with ABC and ABC Studios since 2004. She’s developed such drama hits as Army Wives, Criminal Minds, Private Practice, Nashville, Once Upon a Time, American Crime, and 2/3 of our beloved TGIT block: Scandal and How to Get Away With Murder.
The appointment of Dungey—pictured above (right) at the 2015 Emmys with ABC Studios senior vice president of drama development Nne Ebong—is a gratifying bit of HR news, and not just because it rewards her track record and marks a historic moment for the business. Dungey will preside over a network that has proven, over the past several years, that audiences both crave and relate to series about nonwhite people. It’s not just Shonda Rhimes‘ addictive hits—Fresh off the Boat, Black-ish, and American Crime have all proved to have staying power and broad appeal.
If you DVR the Huangs and the Johnsons as obsessively as I do, you might already know that—but here’s something you likely don’t. Dungey has been, and will be, far from alone in ABC’s quest to create modern hits. The network has one of the most diverse executive floors in Hollywood. Of the 26 company chiefs listed on its “executives” roster, 15 are women. At least six of them are women of color, and they include Dungey as well as Ebong, who heads drama, and Samie Kim Falvey, who heads comedy. (Speaking of women of color: Dungey is only the second one ever to run a big-four network. Longtime CBS chief Nina Tassler, who left the network in 2015, is Latina.)
Dungey’s coronation as ABC boss is the latest development in what’s been a great 12 months for women climbing the ranks in broadcast television: Bela Bejaria was promoted to president of Universal Television (which is affiliated with NBC) in June, and Dana Walden was named co-chairman of FOX in July. Not to tell anyone how to do their jobs, but when do we get a Shonda Rhimes drama about hard-charging ladies who collectively run the programming grid? We even know who could play Dungey: her sister, Merrin, an actress you know from roughly everything, including Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
Photos: Getty Images