Disney TV Chief Heads Back to Mainstream
In his new position as president of network television for Walt Disney Studios, Garth Ancier, former programming chief for Fox Broadcasting Co., said Wednesday that he will be returning to the thing he likes best: developing shows for the mainstream network audience.
Ancier, who resigned from his Fox post March 1 and announced his acceptance of the newly created Disney position Tuesday, will be responsible for all series programs produced by Walt Disney Television and Touchstone Television, effective April 18.
The 31-year-old executive, who began his career in radio, will also become a member of the company’s broadcast board of directors, which is responsible for acquiring television stations for Disney. The company made its first move in that direction with the $324-million acquisition of Los Angeles’ KHJ-TV Channel 9 last July.
Ancier said in an interview that Disney, flush with the success of its feature film division--hits include “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” “Ruthless People” and “Three Men and a Baby"--plans to expand aggressively into television series production.
“I think any studio wants to produce more shows,” Ancier said. “I think (my appointment) represents a commitment on the part of Disney to really get active in network TV. I think you saw the signals of that long before I was brought on.” He cited the studio’s development deals with former “L.A. Law” co-creator Terry Louise Fisher and writer-producer Bill Blinn (“Our House”) as examples.
Disney currently has two series on the air--NBC’s “The Magical World of Disney” and CBS’ “Hard Time on Planet Earth.” Also on the production list are a two-hour pilot for NBC of Fisher’s drama “Orleans,” a pilot for CBS based on the feature film “Adventures in Babysitting” and “The Nutt House,” an NBC fall series that will be produced by Mel Brooks and Alan Spencer.
Although Disney plans to supply programs to cable TV and the Fox network, Ancier, a former comedy development executive at NBC, said he looks forward to returning to his roots as a programmer for the mainstream audience.
“One of the things that happened at Fox is, you were always the alternative to what was already on the air,” he explained.
Ancier said he left the Fox Broadcasting post because the challenge of building a network from scratch had worn off as the company grew more established.
“I can remember when the company was seven of us sitting around a table,” he said. “Now, it has well over 100 employees who don’t remember three years ago, when the company didn’t even have a name.”
What Disney is offering him, he said, “is the opportunity to build a company again, to put the pieces together, to build a staff, to get the shows on the air.”