Home #Hwoodtimes ABC Family bolsters its executive ranks

ABC Family bolsters its executive ranks







BURBANK, CA (August 6, 2015) – ABC Family bolsters its executive ranks to successfully meet the demands of a modern media enterprise and to maintain its leadership position in providing original, groundbreaking content and deep fan engagement in a quickly changing media environment. 

Simran S. Sethi will join as Senior Vice President, Original Programming and Development, and Jennifer Gerstenblatt has been promoted to Vice President, Current Programming. Both will report to Karey Burke, Executive Vice President, Programming and Development. George Chen joins as Vice President, Strategy and Business Development, reporting to Salaam Coleman Smith, Executive Vice President, Strategy & Programming, ABC Family and Karissa Zigarovich joins as Director, Consumer Insights, who will report to Ed Isabella, Vice President Research.

“I loved working with Simran when I was producing, and I’m thrilled to bring her energy, taste and passion to this network,” said Burke. “Her eye for bold, original content is perfect for our brand and will usher us into our next era of innovation programming.”

On Monday, August 24th, Simran S. Sethi will join ABC Family’s programming team as Senior Vice President, Original Programming and Development. In her new role she will manage the scripted series development team and oversee the department’s day-to-day operations. As ABC Family looks to double the amount of its original programming, she will also identify and grow the unique, compelling and brand-appropriate ideas and concepts for scripted content, including comedy and drama, and oversee the creative production of scripted series pilots. In addition, she will develop short-form scripted shows for the network’s digital platform. She will also focus on the important relationships with on- and off-camera talent, production teams and all ABC Family departments.

Previously, Sethi served as Senior Vice President of Comedy Development at NBC for four years, helping shepherd upcoming shows such as “Superstore” with America Ferrera and “The Carmichael Show” featuring comedian Jerrod Carmichael. Prior to working at NBC, Sethi served as Vice President of Development at Adam Sandler’s company, Happy Madison, and as Director of Development at Sony Pictures Television, working on dramas and current programming, and digital development for Sony’s Crackle.com.

Simran began her career in soaps, working as an A.D. for “Days of Our Lives.” She attended Brown University as an undergrad and received her M.B.A. from Stanford Business School.

Brooke Bowman, whose accomplishments at the network include developing the groundbreaking drama “Secret Life of the American Teenager,” the Peabody Award-winning drama “Switched at Birth,” the hit comedy “Baby Daddy” and the networks newest saga “Shadowhunters,” will continue her relationship with ABC Family, consulting with the network on a wide range of original production and development.

Also within Karey Burke’s programming and development department, Jennifer Gerstenblatt has been upped to Vice President, Current Programming where she will provide creative direction for the current programming team, and oversee current programming projects and digital series. She will be responsible for all freshman shows and actively maintain all veteran series.

“Jenn has played a key role in making ABC Family the powerhouse it is today,” said Burke. “She helped shape and grow iconic series for the network, including the social media darling ‘Pretty Little Liars,’ the Peabody Award-winning drama ‘Switched at Birth’ and the very funny ‘Baby Daddy.’ Jenn’s enthusiasm for her shows is infectious — she advocates for them like a true fan, and I’m so glad her passion and hard work is being rewarded and that she will continue to shape the future of our network.”

Gerstenblatt rose through the ranks at the network, starting as a programming assistant when she joined ABC Family in 2006. Her most recent title was Executive Director, Programming where she was the primary current executive on such series as the network’s signature hit and pop-culture phenomenon “Pretty Little Liars,” the Peabody Award-winning drama “Switched at Birth” and the critically acclaimed “Chasing Life.” Gerstenblatt also oversees hit comedy “Baby Daddy,” which ranks as the #1 comedy launch in ABC Family history and the soon-to-premiere comedy “Kevin From Work.”

Prior to joining ABC Family, she was working in programming and development for Sony Pictures Television, and started her entertainment career as an associate producer at E! Entertainment.

Gerstenblatt holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Syracuse University.

Kelly Goode, who previously held the post, has decided to exit the network.

With its largest arsenal of original programming in the network’s history, ABC Family is pacing as cable TV’s #1 network in Prime for the second year in a row in Women 18-34 and ranks among the Top 5 networks for the seventh-straight year in Women 18-49. Triumphant across multiple platforms (Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and Tumblr), ABC Family has one of the most socially engaged audiences, powered by “Pretty Little Liars,” which accounts for the Top 5 most tweeted scripted cable TV series telecasts of all time, is the #1 most followed scripted series on Instagram (2.6 million) and recently passed 1 million friends on Snapchat.

In addition to programming growth, the network is also looking to grow ancillary businesses and partnerships in the streaming, social and mobile space. George Chen will oversee the identification, exploration and analysis of new opportunities while developing new strategic business initiatives. He will also manage the research, evaluation and negotiations necessary to expand ancillary revenue and the network’s digital expressions while serving as key dealmaker for new partnerships.

“George is a smart, thoughtful and strategic thinker,” said Coleman Smith. “His business acumen, digital expertise and strong track record forging partnerships for the Disney|ABC Television Group make him an invaluable leader and driver of ABC Family’s future growth.”

Chen moves to the network from his previous position at the Disney|ABC Television Group as Director, Business Development, where he managed all business development efforts for ABC Primetime, Daytime and Late Night digital media. During his tenure, Chen identified and negotiated numerous key third-party technology and distribution partnerships for sponsorship and revenue opportunities, including the first Yahoo-Oscars partnership and video-distribution agreement with AOL. He also licensed all online, mobile and social-gaming initiatives for hit ABC shows such as “Lost,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Desperate Housewives.” Additionally, in a former role within Disney|ABC, Chen also developed and launched the first ABC primetime mobile sites, which included text-subscription services, mobile applications and the text-to-vote campaigns for “Dancing with the Stars.”

Prior to his time at the Disney|ABC Television Group, Chen was at ABC Studios where he supervised the third-party licensing product development, marketing and release plans for numerous ABC shows, increasing revenue year to year. He also identified and evaluated new series for release on iTunes, determining release strategies for the platform.

Chen graduated from University of California, Berkeley with a B.A. in Economics and received his Master of Business Administration from the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California.

ABC Family created a new position within its research department to grow its reputation as an authority, expert and thought leader about Becomers — people in high school, college and the decade that follows.   Consumer insights will be an integral part of this, and Karissa Zigarovich joins as Director of Consumer Insights. In this role, she will continue to build ABC Family’s reputation as an expert and authority about the attitudes and behaviors of Becomers. She will develop deep insights about the networks’ audience, identify cultural trends and lead consumer research projects about ABC Family’s brand, demo, development, and current programming to inform strategy and key decisions.

“When you make a new hire, it is really nice when you hear from someone at their previous company about how amazing they are. I, and what seems like half the ABC Family team, got similar comments about her,” said Isabella. “Karissa is a skilled researcher who has developed a keen understanding of young adults. I’m very excited to have her on board to help bring ABC Family closer to our Becomer audience.”

Most recently, Karissa had been Director, Marketing and Programming Insights at MTV where she was responsible for bringing audience input into MTV’s marketing and show development processes. Using audience data and insights, she helped develop and launch some MTV’s biggest hits, including “Teen Wolf,” “Scream,” “Finding Carter,” “Catfish,” and the yearly “Video Music Awards” (VMAs).

Prior to joining MTV, Karissa worked in the research department at Optimedia, a part of Publicis Groupe. During her tenure at Optimedia, her job responsibilities included developing and executing custom research studies for clients such as BBC America, L’Oreal, British Airways, T-Mobile, Garnier, and Cartier. While there, she was responsible for developing a custom research product called OutLookers, which was the company’s first-ever nationwide trendspotting program.

Karissa graduated from West Virginia University with a MA in Communication Theory and Research. She also holds BA’s in Psychology and Communication Studies from West Virginia University.

Part of the Disney|ABC Television Group, ABC Family is distributed in 94 million homes. ABC Family entertains and connects to audiences with bold, relatable programming that celebrates the epic adventure of becoming an adult, from first kiss to first kid. ABC Family’s programming is a combination of network-defining original series and original movies, quality acquired series and blockbuster theatricals. “WATCH ABC Family” is an authenticated service which allows viewers with participating TV subscription services access to 24/7 live viewing of the network, as well as continued on-demand access to such popular series at home and on-the-go via a wide array of devices. ABC Family is also the destination for annual holiday events with “13 Nights of Halloween” and “25 Days of Christmas.”