During a near twenty year tenure at ABC, Ted Harbert worked his way up the ladder from television planning and scheduling to primetime responsibilities as president (and later chair) of ABC Entertainment. He left the network in 1997 to accept an exclusive deal at DreamWorks SKG to develop and produce TV shows.
Born in NYC, this son of a TV producer and director earned a communications degree from Boston University in the late 1970s. Harbert spent a year as a radio news producer at WHDH in Boston before fulfilling a lifelong dream of working at ABC. He began as feature film coordinator for ABC Entertainment and was subsequently promoted through the ranks to vice president (in 1989) and later president (1993) in charge of primetime entertainment. In those capacities, he developed specials and reality-based programming as well as series (including the award-winning "The Wonder Years" and "thirtysomething"). Harbert also assisted then-president Robert A Iger in matters pertaining to finance and marketing, weathering the network's takeover by first Capital Cities and then Disney.
Harbert, however, was faulted for not picking up "3rd Rock From the Sun". In spite of developing the sitcom, the network would only commit to a limited number of episodes. When NBC picked up the show, it became an instant hit, winning its time slot and stealing viewers from ABC's schedule. A number of other factors threatened Harbert's position at the network: declining ratings over several seasons, the lack of break-out new hits to replace aging shows and Disney's purchase of the network. ABC hired wunderkind Jamie Tarses from NBC and installed her as president, promoting Harbert to the ill-defined role of chairman. No longer functioning as the network's chief programmer, Harbert remained in his new position for less than a year before announcing his resignation. Shortly thereafter, it was announced he had signed an exclusive producing deal with DreamWorks SKG to develop and produce TV shows. Two years later, Harbert accepted the position of president, NBC Studios with responsibilities for developing programming for the network.