While Shonda Rhimes has put the world on notice that Black women can run successful TV franchises, women in television’s executive suite ranks have been few and far between with Black women fewer and farther between than anyone else.
Channing Dungey’s appointment to the head of ABC Networks is one of the glass-ceiling breaking kind of moments that is still rare, but gives hope to more diversity in top entertainment executives. It only makes sense as networks face stiff competition from streaming services like Amazon and Netflix and need every advantage to remain relevant.
Dungey, a UCLA graduate believed to be about 46, started out like many in Hollywood do – as an assistant. She worked her way through the ranks to become a Warner Brothers film production executive, then continued her career as a producer, ultimately landing at ABC Networks. Dungey made a steady climb at ABC, ultimately becoming Senior Vice-President Of Drama. It was from that post that she was elevated to president of ABC Primetime Entertainment in February of 2016, the first African-American to ever hold the title at a major network.
Talent runs in the Dungey family – her sister, Merrin, is an actress who recently appeared on the ABC drama Once Upon A Time and was part of the cast of Conviction, also on ABC.
What makes Dungey one to watch? Well, the continued success of ABC’s primetime lineup – especially its Thursday night TGIT blockbuster of Rhimes shows – would seem to cement her legacy at ABC, but as anyone knows, once you get to the top, it can be a challenge to stay there.
Given the competition coming from all sides, Dungey will need a combination of leadership, creative talent and access to top performers to remain in her corner office. But regardless of how long she reigns at the top, the accomplishment will remain part of her legacy and part of the Black history that happens every day.