TCA: New ABC Entertainment Chief Lee: 'There Is Work To Do'


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Paul Lee, the new president of ABC Entertainment, assumed the hot seat Sunday morning (Aug. 1) at the Television Critics Association press tour.

Addressing the media for the first time since the tumultuous departure of his predecessor, Steve McPherson, Lee noted that he was "super unprepared," as he only held the job for "36 hours."

Lee, the former president of ABC Family, who was on vacation last week when McPherson abruptly resigned, said Disney-ABC Television Group president Anne Sweeney asked him to address critics at press tour, but he would not directly address questions about McPherson.

"I'm clearly very excited with this opportunity. This is one of the premiere iconic American storytelling brands," said Lee. "I felt honored to be offered the job by Anne. I'm thrilled to do it and I don't want to talk about Steve."

Lee's background has been in cable television - the former president of ABC Family, he got his start as a reporter for the BBC and also launched BBC America. He admitted that broadcast television is a much "bigger canvas" with many more moving parts.

"There is no question that this is a more difficult job than running cable because you have more time to stick with things on cable," said Lee. "We are all slaves to ratings and sometimes there is a very small, passionate group that loves a show, but that show will never find a wider audience. In the end, it's about will the show over time grow creatively and have you got the patience to [let it]."

ABC has experienced a ratings slide as its brand-defining hits have aged (Grey's Anatomy, Desperate Housewives) or wrapped (Lost). And while Lee expressed optimism that the success of Modern Family can create "fertile ground" for additional half-hours on the network, he acknowledged that he has his "work cut out for him."

"We have a strong slate coming up," he said. "This job is about creating new, strong, brand-defining hits. So we do have our work cut out for us. But we all do. Every network needs to replenish itself. So yes there's work to do."

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