Disney's top woman Anne Sweeney announced Tuesday she will leave the company in January after 18 years to follow her dream of becoming a TV director.
While Hollywood was surprised, there's skepticism as to whether there's more to her departure.
As Disney Media Network's co-chair and president of Disney/ABC Television Group, Sweeney oversaw both ABC Studios, Disney networks, ABC Family, and the company's stake in Hulu and A&E.
The announcement came soon after a report that the Mouse House was in talks to purchase YouTube content producer Maker Studios for $500 million.
While Sweeney's combined divisions made $11.9 billion last year, according to The Hollywood Reporter, ABC has fallen to fourth place in the ratings among the big networks.Total Viewers For All Program Series On Network TV
While ABC's "Good Morning America" celebrated beating NBC's "Today" show for 52 consecutive weeks last year, overall the network doesn't have a lot of break out hits right now.
"Marvel: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.," a direct parallel to Marvel's superhero "Avengers" franchise was expected to be a huge win for the network. Despite bringing in 17 million viewers for its premiere, the campy adaptation focusing on a group of secret agents as opposed to superheroes dipped in ratings. After 13 episodes, the series is sitting at under 10 million viewers.
After four cancellations this season ("The Assets," "Back in the Game," "Lucky 7," and "Betrayal,") it is currently tied with NBC for the most-axed shows of the 2013-2014 season.
Right now, ABC's most popular series are "Modern Family" (avg of 10.2 million viewers) "Shark Tank" (7.2 million), "Dancing with the Stars" (13.7 million), "Scandal" (9 million), and the aging "Grey's Anatomy" (8.7 million) with slowing ratings year after year.
That's minuscule when you look at CBS' most-watched shows "The Big Bang Theory" and "NCIS," which receive an average of 18 million and 19 million viewers, respectively.
A look at Nielsen's top primetime TV series of 2013 shows reality series "Dancing with the Stars" has been the most popular series for the network.
Below are the ABC's five top-rated scripted series right now:
Compare those with the ratings for the top five scripted series on CBS, FOX, and NBC. CBS destroys the other networks.
The one gem the network currently has is new series "Resurrection," built on the mystery of loved ones returning from the dead years later.
The show received 13.9 million viewers Sunday — ABC's highest ratings since 2009 — on a night where Fox premiered "Cosmos," HBO aired the season finale of "True Detective," and AMC was showing "The Walking Dead."
However, a good premiere doesn't mean instant success for "Resurrection."
ABC has tried dabbling in similar mystery shows while trying to capture the essence of its popular mystery "Lost" which was a popular staple for six seasons.
Though shows "V" and "Flashforward" — also with appearances from former "Lost" cast members — debuted to strong starts, ratings tanked when both show's larger plots were revealed.
US viewers of "Flashforward"
Disney CEO Bob Iger hinted to The Hollywood Reporter that the network could use an influx of more content.
"We’d love a few more hits at ABC," said Iger. "There are shows that we’re really proud of, led by 'Scandal,' for instance. And other shows that have come out of the blue like 'Shark Tank.' We have some hits. We’re due."
Whoever takes Sweeney's place will have quite the task on hand.
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