2018’s Biggest TV Executive Departures

From Les Moonves to Nancy Dubuc, the top bigwigs to head for the exits this year

Between megamergers, #MeToo and other industry shake-ups, more than a dozen top TV executives left their jobs in 2018. - Credit by Photo Illustration, Amber McAden, Source: Getty Images
Headshot of Jason Lynch

The White House isn’t the only place that saw a sizable leadership exodus in 2018. Across Hollywood, more than a dozen top TV execs headed for the exits this year, mostly due to megamergers, #MeToo and new opportunities elsewhere. (During just two months this fall, each of the big four broadcasters underwent a significant shake-up in their top ranks.) Here are the year’s biggest exec departures:

Les Moonves, CBS

The embattled CEO and chairman, who had spent 23 years at CBS, left on Sept. 9 after a dozen women accused him of sexual harassment and intimidation in a pair of New Yorker stories published in July and September. After investigating The New Yorker’s allegations, the CBS board announced last week that Moonves would be fired for cause, and would therefore not be receiving his $120 million severance package. Former COO Joseph Ianniello is now serving as interim CEO.

Robert Greenblatt, NBC

The NBC Entertainment chairman, who had been Adweek’s TV Executive of the Year in 2017, kicked off the 2018-19 TV season in September by stepping down after seven years at the network, where he took NBC from worst to first place in the adults 18-49 demo. “I love this network and our parent company, but since NBC is back on track and has achieved such great success I think it’s time for me to turn to a new challenge,” Greenblatt said in a company memo. He passed the baton to George Cheeks and Paul Telegdy, who serve as co-chairmen of NBC Entertainment.

Jennifer Salke, NBC

The former NBC Entertainment president would have been the logical choice to succeed Greenblatt, but she left the network in February to become chief of Amazon Studios, and oversee TV and film production for the company. That position had been vacant since Roy Price stepped down in October 2017 following sexual harassment allegations from a producer on The Man In the High Castle.

Dana Walden, Gary Newman and Peter Rice, Fox Television Group

In October, Disney said that two big Fox TV execs would be joining the Disney leadership team after the Disney-Fox merger is complete. Peter Rice, president of 21st Century Fox and chairman and CEO of Fox Networks Group, will become chairman of Walt Disney Television and co-chair of Disney Media Networks. And Fox Television Group CEO and chairman Walden was named chairman of Disney Television Studios and ABC Entertainment. Newman, who oversaw Fox Television Group alongside Walden, had initially been expected to stay behind and run Fox Broadcasting, but he is exiting that job as well, with AMC’s Charlie Collier taking over that network.

Ben Sherwood, Disney-ABC Television Group

Rice and Walden’s arrival at Disney meant that Sherwood, co-chair of Disney Media Networks and president of Disney-ABC Television Group since 2014, will be leaving the company after the Fox deal closes, Disney said in October.

Channing Dungey, ABC

After two and a half year as ABC Entertainment president, Dungey opted to not renew her contract ahead of parent company Disney’s pending merger with Fox. Instead, she stepped down on Nov. 16, as ABC tapped Karey Burke, previously head of Freeform original programming development, to fill her position. One month later, Dungey found her new landing spot: Netflix, where she’ll serve as vp of original content and be reunited with creators Shonda Rhimes and Kenya Barris, both of whom had ditched ABC Studios for exclusive deals with the streaming service.

Ed Erhardt, ESPN

After heading up ESPN ad sales for 20 years, Erhardt announced his retirement in September. Disney promoted Rita Ferro to president of Disney advertising sales and added ESPN ad sales to her portfolio, which already included ABC, Freeform, the Disney channels and the Disney Digital Network.

Charlie Collier, AMC and SundanceTV

After Fox was unable to come to an agreement with Newman to continue to run the network after the Disney merger, it moved quickly to find a replacement in AMC, SundanceTV and AMC Studios president and gm Charlie Collier, who was named Fox’s CEO of Entertainment on Oct. 19. He had been at AMC since 2006. Two weeks later, AMC Networks set its post-Collier leadership, promoting BBC America president and gm Sarah Barnett to president, entertainment networks for the whole company.

Joe Marchese, Fox Networks Group

In October, it was revealed that Marchese, who had been president of advertising revenue since May 2017, will not be a part of “New Fox”—the 21st Century Fox assets that will be spun off ahead of its $71.3 billion merger with Disney—and instead will depart the company at that time. Fox News ad sales chief Marianne Gambelli will oversee ad sales for the new company.

Nancy Dubuc, A&E

Just three days before A+E Networks’ upfront event in March, Nancy Dubuc announced she was leaving the company after almost two decades. Dubuc, who had been in the running for the Amazon Studios job that ultimately went to Salke, headed to Vice Media, where she replaced founder Shane Smith as CEO. Paul Buccieri, who had been president of the company’s in-house A+E Studios since 2016, was named president of A+E Networks Group in July.

Debra Lee, BET

The chairman and CEO, who had led BET for two decades and spent 32 years with the company, left in May, after relinquishing her president title the previous December as part of Viacom’s new direction under CEO Bob Bakish. Scott Mills, who had taken on the president title at that point, now oversees BET.

Cyma Zarghami, Nickelodeon

Just a week after Lee announced her exit, another three-decade Viacom veteran departed the network she had overseen for more than 10 years, as Cyma Zarghami stepped down as president of Nickelodeon Group on June 4. It took Nickelodeon four months to find her successor: Brian Robbins.

Kevin Kay, Paramount Network, TV Land and CMT

Bakish continued his overhaul of Viacom’s network chiefs in October, by rolling out a Viacom Media Networks restructuring that resulted in the departure of Kay, president of Paramount Network, TV Land and CMT. Comedy Central chief Kent Alterman now also oversees Paramount and TV Land, while MTV, VH1 and Logo president Chris McCarthy added CMT to his portfolio.

Rich Ross, Discovery and Science

As part of Discovery’s management shake-up as its Scripps merger closed, Discovery and Science chief Rich Ross left the company after three years. Former TLC president Nancy Daniels now oversees those two networks as chief brand officer, Discovery and Factual.

Ben Price, Discovery Inc.

The former Discovery ad sales chief said in April that he would be leaving the company after this year’s upfronts. Price, who had been with the company for 28 years, had been passed over for the top ad sales job after the Discovery-Scripps merger closed in March, in favor of Scripps’ Jon Steinlauf.

Joel Stillerman, Hulu

The chief content officer left the streaming service in June as part of a major reorganization, under new CEO Randy Freer, that saw the elimination of his position.


@jasonlynch jason.lynch@adweek.com Jason Lynch is TV/Media Editor at Adweek, overseeing trends, technology, personalities and programming across broadcast, cable and streaming video.
Publish date: December 28, 2018 https://dev.adweek.com/tv-video/2018s-biggest-tv-executive-departures/ © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT