Walt Disney Co. has hired a former Nickelodeon and Newsweek executive to run its ABC Family cable network.
Tom Ascheim, who has ties to Disney Media Networks Co-Chair Anne Sweeney, will become president of ABC Family. He and Sweeney worked together at Nickelodeon in the 1990s. Ascheim succeeds Michael Riley, who announced in September he would be leaving his position.
"Whether in print, television, or the financial sector, Tom has gone from success to success," Sweeney said in a statement. "He has a proven capability of leading creative teams, and I’m thrilled that he’ll now bring his innovative, entrepreneurial spirit to bear on behalf of ABC Family and the Disney/ABC Television Group.”
The hire caught some entertainment industry insiders by surprise. Although Ascheim was once an executive vice president and general manager of Nickelodeon, he left the cable channel in 2007. He went on to become chief executive of Newsweek and then a strategist at Sesame Workshop. He most recently ran a consulting firm.
Best known for its teen shows "Pretty Little Liars," "Melissa and Joey" and "Twisted," ABC Family has had its biggest successes targetting young girls. However, there is a concern that the channel has become too focused on that niche and needs to broaden its appeal.
In a statement, Ascheim said the network has "only just begun to tap its full potential."
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