Steve Burke has been named president of ABC Inc.'s newly configured broadcasting division, which in addition to the television and radio station groups also includes Buena Vista Television, the domestic syndication arm.
Industry executives see the appointment as a way to give Robert Iger, president of ABC, more time to focus on problems at the television network, whose ratings have fallen dramatically since the Walt Disney Co. purchased the company last year. Burke will continue to report to Iger.
“This is a necessary shoring up and reinforcement of management using the talent they have at hand,” said Alan Bell, president of Freedom Broadcasting, which owns two ABC stations. “This takes the strain off Iger, whose experience is in entertainment and who has been rolling up his sleeves to fix the problem. He doesn’t have time for other functions that had been reporting to him.”
The broadcast group has been without a president since Michael Millardi retired as president in June 1996. While ABC’s television group is considered among the best-managed in the business, its radio group has been overshadowed by recent consolidation, leading to speculation that Disney would sell out of radio.
Burke, 38, joined ABC as executive vice president, directly under Iger, in March 1996, a month after Disney completed its purchase of the company. His appointment fueled speculation that he was on the fast track at Disney, destined for a top management spot under Chairman Michael Eisner.
As president and chief operating officer of Euro Disney since 1992, Burke is credited with reversing the dismal attendance figures at the theme park in Paris. He joined Disney in January 1986 and had a hand in developing the Disney Store.