Netflix hires another high-profile Disney/ABC talent

The hiring ratchets up competition between Disney and Netflix, after Disney pledged to create a new entertainment service, called Disney+.
Channing Dungey
ABC President Channing Dungey arrives at the Women In Film Crystal and Lucy Awards on June 13, 2018, in Beverly Hills, California.Chris Pizzello / Invision/AP

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By Claire Atkinson

Netflix said on Monday that it has hired former ABC Entertainment President Channing Dungey as its new vice president of original content.

The hiring ratchets up competition between Disney and Netflix, after Disney pledged to create a new entertainment service, called Disney+, aimed at making inroads into Netflix's lead in the direct-to-consumer streaming business.

Earlier this month, Netflix content chief Ted Sarandos told an investor conference that the Disney acquisition of Fox had created an opportunity to hire talent. Dungey had said last month that she was planning to leave ABC, after Disney announced Fox’s Dana Walden would become her new boss.

Walden had previously sold shows such as “Modern Family” to Dungey as co-head of Fox Broadcasting and 20th Century Fox Television. Walden had wanted Dungey to stay on at Disney, but she will have a much broader slate at Netflix, which has partnered with a variety of talent including Barack and Michelle Obama for original programming.

Netflix has hired a handful of top creative executives from Disney and also counts Anne Sweeney, Disney’s former co-chair of its media networks, as a board director. Netflix also recently hired Shonda Rhimes and Kenya Barris, both of whom had successful shows on ABC.

Rhimes is behind shows such as “Grey’s Anatomy” and “How to Get Away with Murder,” while Barris is the creator of ABC’s “Blackish.” Dungey made headlines earlier this year after cancelling ABC’s “Roseanne,” after its star made a racist remark about former Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett. She was ABC's first black entertainment network head.

Last month, executives at another Disney outfit, Marvel Television, were surprised to learn that “Daredevil” was canceled by Netflix. The streaming giant also picked up Fox's Ryan Murphy after he said that turbulence around the Fox-Disney deal led him to decide to go elsewhere.

“Channing is a creative force whose taste and talent have earned her the admiration of her peers across the industry," Sarandos said in a statement. "She’s a risk taker and ground-breaker and talent love working with her. I couldn’t be happier to welcome her to Netflix.”

“I’m drawn to the forward-thinking, risk-taking and creative culture at Netflix, and the deeply talented people there, especially Ted and Cindy [Holland, Netflix's vice president of original content], with whom I’m excited to partner on setting the strategy for original content,” said Dungey, who also called Netflix “the unparalleled leader in streaming.”

In August 2018, Disney said it would pull much of its content from Netflix in order to launch its own streaming service. Disney+, set to launch in 2019, is one of three Disney streaming ventures including ESPN+ and Hulu that bypass traditional distributors to reach consumers directly with TV shows and movies.