Risk taker reposition: where are they now?

David Abraham
July 1, 2007

David Abraham
Then: TLC, EVP and GM (US)
Now: UKTV, chief executive (UK)
Was it surprising that David Abraham returned to Blighty’s shores so soon after taking the helm at troubled TLC? Rumors certainly suggested that the former head of Discovery Networks in Britain had been looking wistfully east. Not surprising really, given the state of the cablecaster before his arrival. Abraham has been replaced at TLC by Angela Shapiro-Mathes, former president of Fox Television Studios.

In his new position, which he took up in April, Abraham has been tasked with ‘driving the profitable growth and development of UKTV, building a strong, motivated, commercially focused, and effective team capable of meeting the challenges associated with the company’s growth strategy. He will also create and enhance shareholder value, defining and agreeing a clear strategic path for the business and determine opportunities for further expansion’ – or so says a company release. Look for Abraham to pursue those goals as aggressively as he did at TLC. The UKTV family, currently attracting 27 million viewers each month, still has enormous growth potential.

Dan Chambers
Then: Five, director of programs (UK)
Now: a yet-to-be-named indie (UK)
The retrospective of Dan Chambers’ tenure at Five will be mixed. The former C4 science editor turned Five director of programs tried to pull the net away from its ‘film, football and fucking’ tag, and while he did meet with some success, ratings did not respond as well as hoped. And, as the broadcaster expands into new digital incarnations, the pressure was on to put ultimate control of the Five brand into the hands of someone with experience running a portfolio of channels. Enter ex-Flextech md Lisa Opie, and exit Chambers.

Chambers, who appears to have earned the goodwill of many in the UK broadcasting community, has plans to set up a factual indie with former Five controller of factual, Justine Kershaw. Unnamed at press time, the prodco reportedly wants to focus on features, as well as history, science and wildlife programming.

Danny Cohen
Then: E4 head (UK)
Now: BBC3, controller (UK)
In military circles, Danny Cohen would be known as what’s called a ‘fast burner.’ At the beginning of the millennium, Cohen was happily laboring away as head of development at UK prodco Diverse Productions. In 2001, however, Cohen joined the commissioning team for the launch of E4, then began a stint as CE at C4, eventually becoming head of documentary in 2005. The next year, Cohen was appointed head of both E4 and C4 factual entertainment.

Since April, the exec can top his CV with the title: controller, BBC3. Cohen’s mandate will now stretch across all genres, and he has been tasked by BBC Vision director Jana Bennett with continuing the growth of the still relatively new channel. Launched in 2003, the channel’s reach averages 11.2 million per week.

Mette Hoffmann Meyer
Then: TV2, head of copros/acquisitions (Denmark)
Now: DR TV, head of international documentaries (Denmark)
Mette Hoffmann Meyer is one of the mainstays of the European documentary world – so it came as a surprise to many when she recently left her post at TV2, a broadcaster she had been with since 1989. But Hoffmann Meyer will soon take up a role at rival net DR similar to the one she held at TV2. Beginning this August, Meyer will buy and commission docs for both DR1 and DR2, taking over for outgoing commissioner Hanne Lindemann.

Besides her constant support for the industry via international pitching forums and events, Hoffmann Meyer has also been a driving force behind films such as The Trial of Saddam Hussein and the Why Democracy? project. That she chooses to remain in the industry is a great relief to many.

Andrea Wong
Then: ABC Entertainment, EVP, alternative programming, specials and late-night (US)
Now: Lifetime Entertainment Services, president and CEO (US)
When you have the us versions of Dancing with the Stars, Wife Swap and Supernanny under your belt (among others), it’s really only a matter of time before someone thinks you deserve your own channel. Thus, Andrea Wong makes the familial leap from the ABC net to Lifetime, replacing outgoing head Betty Cohen.

Lifetime has had a bit of a rough go of late, with primetime household ratings slipping, due partially to an ugly carriage dispute with EchoStar Communications’ DISH Network that saw the channel dropped for a month. Add to that a lawsuit from DirecTV, and you have a channel in need of a deep breath and strong, fresh leadership. So, the nod goes to Wong, who Disney Media Networks co-chairman Anne Sweeney dubbed ‘a straight shooter who is smart enough to know which challenges to undertake and fearless enough to see them through.’

About The Author
Jonathan Paul is a Toronto-based writer into creativity, content, advertising, tech, comics, video games, film, TV, time and space travel.