WB Exec Is Named Head of NBC Entertainment
Completing a management transition within its prime-time programming division, NBC named Garth Ancier president of NBC Entertainment and speeded the promotion of Scott Sassa to president of NBC West Coast, succeeding Don Ohlmeyer.
The new team will steer NBC through one of its toughest periods, as the network’s profit is being eroded by higher programming costs associated with hit shows such as “ER” and by shrinking ratings. NBC is still No. 1 in prime-time ratings among the viewers that advertisers pay a premium to reach, but its lead has narrowed because of the loss of such blockbusters as “Seinfeld” and the promotional base provided by National Football League games.
Ancier, 41, will join the network May 10, two days after the expiration of his contract with WB, the broadcast TV arm of Time Warner Inc. Although Ancier will miss the key development season, he will arrive in time to set the network’s new fall prime-time schedule and to present it to advertisers in New York.
Ancier has been serving as a consultant to WB since December, when he announced he would not renew his contract and the network named Susanne Daniels as his replacement. Ancier had been president of entertainment at WB since its inception in 1995, helping build it into the top-rated network for teens, with such programs as “7th Heaven,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Dawson’s Creek.”
Ancier’s arrival at NBC was widely expected since October, when his former Fox network colleague Sassa, 40, president of NBC’s Television Stations division, replaced Warren Littlefield as president of NBC Entertainment. NBC had said Sassa would succeed Ohlmeyer, who took the network from third to first in the ratings, when his contract expires at the end of the year.
But NBC said Monday that Sassa will assume Ohlmeyer’s duties June 1 and that Ohlmeyer will remain at NBC as a senior consultant, giving the new team full authority over the fall schedule.
Many television executives were surprised last fall when speculation surfaced that Ancier would leave WB during a time of momentum for a network that faced a potentially steep decline. Ancier holds 2% equity and participation in the profit of WB, which is scheduled to break even early in the next decade.
“There was an emotional reason to go back,” said Ancier, who began his broadcasting career at NBC under the late Brandon Tartikoff but has since worked mainly at network start-ups, first at Fox, where he was the network’s first programming chief. “The WB is in terrific shape, so my investment is protected.”
Ancier will have broader responsibilities at NBC than he did at WB and more authority than his predecessor Littlefield. In addition to program development, current programming and scheduling, Ancier will oversee publicity and promotion and will work with Sassa on business affairs.