Bornstein leaves ABC

May 01, 2002|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,SUN TELEVISION CRITIC

Steve Bornstein, president of the ABC television network, resigned yesterday as the struggling network made its first major move to improve its image with advertisers who will be spending tens of millions of dollars on fall lineups in coming weeks.

Bornstein, 50, has been head of the ABC network for only a year, and is not of particular importance as an individual executive and programmer. What's significant about his resignation is how plain it makes the fact that the Walt Disney Co., which owns ABC, is deeply unhappy with the network's performance.

That unhappiness ranges from the 20 percent decline in audience ratings this year to the botched attempt to ditch Ted Koppel's Nightline for Late Show with David Letterman. In prime time, ABC lags well behind its two old-line network competitors, NBC and CBS.

ABC is currently a network without a programming compass, and that is the worst way to enter the "Upfront" week in New York, when fall schedules are announced and advance sales are made. The "Upfront" starts May 13. Advance word on ABC's fall lineup of new offerings has not been good.

Bornstein made his name at ESPN, where he expanded the cable sports channel's programming and audience. ESPN is also owned by Disney. As president of the ABC Television Network, Bornstein oversaw not only the network but also the 10 ABC-owned local stations and Buena Vista Television, a production company and provider of syndicated programming.

In a statement yesterday, Bornstein said he was leaving to "pursue other interests," which he did not name. The announcement of his departure was made by Robert Iger, the president of Disney.

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