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ABC Names First Woman President

ABC on Friday appointed Patricia Fili-Krushel as the first woman president to lead one of the major television networks and gave her far greater authority over what goes on the air than her predecessor.

Mrs. Fili-Krushel has been president of ABC's daytime TV division since 1993 and previously held executive posts at Lifetime Television and HBO.

She succeeds Preston Padden, who left to run a Washington lobbying office for ABC's parent company, the Walt Disney Corp.

Like Padden, Mrs. Fili-Krushel will be in charge of the network's business operations and affiliate relations. But she was also given control over all of ABC's entertainment programming, news and sports, where Padden had no authority.

"Pat has an extraordinarily diverse background in television programming and extensive business and operating experience," said her boss, ABC Inc. President Robert Iger. "Her background and experience are well-suited for these new responsibilities and for the challenging times ahead."

She'll have an opportunity to turn things around: ABC was a third-place network that saw some record low ratings during the past year, and saw almost all of its new programs fail miserably.

ABC is banking on a revived Fantasy Island, the Olsen Twins, a comedy starring Peter Gallagher and an earlier start for Monday Night Football this fall to show some improvement.

"We feel really good about our development slate and we feel we will see an uptick in our ratings this fall," Mrs. Fili-Krushel said. "The main priorities for now are what we are developing for midseason and next fall."

As head of ABC daytime, Mrs. Fili-Krushel was instrumental in developing Barbara Walters' talk show, The View. She said she'll offer her opinions, but leave prime-time programming decisions to executives Stu Bloomberg and Jamie Tarses.

Similarly, she doesn't see herself forcing big changes on the news division, run by ABC News President David Westin. She's had no background in television news.

"Obviously, strategic issues we will discuss, like what are we doing with `Good Morning America,"' she said of ABC's struggling morning news program. "I'm not looking to be involved in David's backyard day-to-day."

Another top priority and one that will test her skills in diplomacy will be reaching a deal with ABC's affiliate stations to help pay for the increased costs of broadcasting NFL football.

Although her appointment is a milestone for women in the television industry, Mrs. Fili-Krushel said that "on some level, it doesn't really matter."

"I haven't run into a glass ceiling or had those kinds of issues," she said. "But I think I feel a certain responsibility as a role model for other women. I'm looking forward to meeting the challenge."

It's been a week of upheaval at the top ranks of broadcast networks. Neil Brau, president of the NBC Television Network, announced Wednesday he was leaving his job to try and buy PolyGram's film division.

The television network business has become considerably tougher in the past few years, with dwindling ratings and increased programming costs making it more difficult for ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, the WB and UPN to make money.

Written By David Bauder, AP Television Writer

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