In a shocking twist worthy of one of Shonda Rhimes’s Thursday-night dramas, ABC programming chief Paul Lee has been forced from his job at the network and replaced by one of his top lieutenants. Channing Dungey, a longtime drama development executive who helped oversee the launch of hits such as Scandal and Once Upon a Time, will now serve as president of ABC Entertainment, the network announced Wednesday. She becomes the only woman currently serving as entertainment president of a major broadcast network, and the first African-American to hold the title. The New York Times broke the news of Lee’s exit, saying Lee lost a power struggle with his boss, Disney-ABC TV Group chairman Ben Sherwood. Sherwood took over as head of Disney’s TV unit last year and, per the Times, “wanted ABC to focus more on CBS-style procedural crime series like NCIS, while Mr. Lee continued to back serialized dramas like Scandal and American Crime.” Sherwood also apparently wanted to be more hands on in programming the network, the Times said. Dungey’s role at ABC will be a bit less lofty than Lee’s: She’ll control network programming and scheduling, but not ABC’s production arm, ABC Studios.
Paul Lee and his replacement, Channing Dungey. Photo: Getty Images