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ABC TV PRESIDENT QUITS BORNSTEIN RESIGNATION FOLLOWS RATINGS SLIDE.

Byline: Greg Hernandez Staff Writer

BURBANK - ABC Television - working desperately to resuscitate its disastrous prime time schedule - announced Tuesday the resignation of its president, Steven M. Bornstein, after only a year on the job.

Bornstein, previously chief executive of ABC-owned ESPN, had long been considered a favored son at the network but several analysts said that with ABC in serious rebuilding mode after a dramatic ratings slide this season, changes at the top seemed inevitable.

Bornstein is the second top ABC executive to leave the network so far this year following the January resignation of programming chief Stu Bloomberg who has been replaced by Susan Lyne.

``You will see some major shuffles with a very troubled division,'' said Paul Kim, an analyst with Kaufman Bros. in New York. ``As of now, this year is a complete wash and obviously the bar is pretty low. Now it's about the next TV season.''

Bornstein had no comment other than a statement released by ABC parent, The Walt Disney Co.

``I have had the good fortune of having some very challenging and rewarding positions with ESPN, ABC and The Walt Disney Company,'' Bornstein said in the statement. ``There are other interests I wish to pursue and now is an appropriate time to do this.''

A replacement for Bornstein has not been announced and there is speculation as to whether or not the executive suite will be restructured in such a way that his position will be eliminated or combined with another top-level post.

``It has been questioned whether these kinds of positions are redundant,'' Kim said.

David Joyce, an analyst with Miami-based Guzman and Co., said that one possibility could be that Lyne could assume some of Bornstein's duties.

``It would be a big job,'' Joyce acknowledged. ``If they were to permanently eliminate the position, they would be saving some money and the decision-making process could be streamlined by having fewer executives there.''

ABC has had a dismal season despite a recent bright spot with the strong performance of its reality series ``The Bachelor,'' which has scored in the ratings. The network's poor performance was a major factor behind a 39 percent drop in income (from 2001) for Disney's media networks when second-quarter earnings were announced last week.

The slide has been magnified because of ABC's strong performance the previous season. But that strength was based on the phenomenal success of its game show ``Who Wants to be a Millionaire,'' which grabbed big ratings on multiple nights. But the once-hot ``Millionaire'' has grown cold and dragged down much of ABC's prime-time schedule along with it.

Later this month, the network will unveil its fall schedule to advertisers in New York. It has 29 comedy and drama pilots from which to choose to make up its fall schedule with the hopes that some will strike a chord with viewers.

Meanwhile, Robert A. Iger, president and chief operating officer of The Walt Disney Co., released a statement Tuesday paying tribute to Bornstein.

``Steve was instrumental in the development of numerous cable and online businesses, and played key roles in the enormous success of ESPN and the successful launch of the ABC Family Channel,'' Iger said. ``We appreciate all that he has done for ESPN, ABC Family, and ABC and wish him well.''

Bornstein presided over Disney's failed attempt to launch an Internet portal to compete with AOL and Yahoo. He was an early executive at ESPN and CEO there for a decade as well as president of ABC Sports. He joined Disney in 1996 when Disney bought Capital Cities/ABC.

``He's more of an ESPN kind of guy and right now, management's focus is on the creative and development side,'' Kim said. ``He was incredibly successful at ESPN, the crown jewel in the Disney empire. But now, the question isn't ESPN, it's ABC.''

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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2002
Words:641
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