Updated Sep 25, 2018 - Economy & Business

Network TV's leadership crisis

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Major changes are underway in the very top ranks of the biggest broadcast networks, which despite ratings declines, still drive many millions of viewers and billions in revenue.

Why it matters: Network television was for years considered the bastion of news and entertainment, but it's facing massive viewership declines and is losing top talent to big tech companies, like Netflix and Amazon. Abrupt leadership exits are further compounding those problems.

  • NBC: Longtime NBC Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt is leaving the network after nearly eight years, citing a desire to explore new challenges. At the same time NBC News Chairman Andy Lack (who sits on the board of Axios) has faced criticism over the network's handling of sexual misconduct. One of the network's top anchors, Matt Lauer, was fired after allegations of sexual misconduct earlier this year, as was one of the network's top producers.
  • Disney/ABC: Disney's top media boss Ben Sherwood will exit the company after Disney (ABC's parent company) completes its acquisition of most of 21st Century Fox, leaving the fate of some of ABC's executives unclear. The company lost top network producers like Shonda Rhimes and Kenya Barris to Netflix earlier this year.
  • Fox: What's left of Fox Broadcasting Network, which will mostly be news and sports programming, will be run by a slew of presumably new and old executives, potentially including Fox TV Group chairman Gary Newman, who is rumored to be staying. Leaders like Fox Networks Group Chairman and CEO Peter Rice, Fox Television Group Chairwoman and CEO Dana Walden and FX Networks CEO John Landgraf will depart the company for Disney after the completion of the merger.
  • CBS: Longtime executive Les Moonves was ousted this summer after reports of allegations of sexual harassment Then one of CBS' top producers left after misconduct charges. Both instances happened just months after Charlie Rose was fired after sexual misconduct allegations. The network is under serious pressure and scrutiny to address a culture of misogyny and misconduct. It's board is conducting investigations.
  • Univision: Univision CEO Randy Falco has retired and is serving as an advisor through the end of the year amid cancelled IPO plans. Turbulence at the network, including a restructuring, resulted in a number of top executives being let go, including Fusion Media Group CEO Felipe Holguin. Other top executives, like Chief Revenue Officer Tonia O’Connor and Chief Content Officer Isaac Lee also announced their departures this summer.

Yes, but: Changes to the media landscape are impacting executives at many media-related businesses, not just network TV. Tech companies, talent agencies, and advertising firms have all been losing or transitioning top talent.

The bottom line: While executives come and go regularly, no one can remember a time when there was so much change and turmoil at the top of all of the networks.

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