Deanne Barkley, who broke through the glass ceiling in network television to become an influential executive in the early 1970s, when few women had the power to develop prime-time programs, died April 2 in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. She was 82.
The cause was chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, said her son, Wilson Shirley.
Described by the Los Angeles Times in 1974 as having "more economic clout than probably any other woman in television," Ms. Barkley became vice president in charge of movies for ABC in 1972, responsible for lining up the concepts and talent to fill hundreds of prime-time hours with made-for-TV films.
Later in the decade she oversaw movie development at NBC, helping to turn novels such as James Clavell's "Shogun" and James Michener's "Centennial" into miniseries watched by millions of viewers.
Along the way she nurtured the careers of unproven writers and directors who became some of Hollywood's most prominent players, including producer Howard Rosenman and directors Ron Howard, Joel Schumacher and John Badham.
"She was beyond influential in starting careers," said Mr. Rosenman, whose projects include 2012's "Sparkle," Whitney Houston's last film. "She put so many young directors on movies who had never worked on them before."
At NBC she helped Mr. Howard, who had become a star playing Opie in "The Andy Griffith Show," go behind the camera with some of his earliest directing assignments.
"She believed in the idea of actors directing, and allowed me to direct without having to appear in the films," Mr. Howard said in an interview for the 2002 book "The Directors: Take One."
Ms. Barkley also introduced him to Brian Grazer, the producer with whom he later founded the Oscar-winning production company Imagine Entertainment.
"She was just terribly significant," said Mollie Gregory, a writer and producer whose 2002 book "Women Who Run the Show" chronicled the rise of women in Hollywood in the 1970s. "If you were struggling to sell material, everyone you met with then was a man. She was very influential for anyone who was striving to work" in the television industry.
Born in New Orleans on March 28, 1931, she was the older of two children of Elodie and Newton Barkley. She studied journalism at Northwestern University and worked briefly at the New Orleans Times-Picayune as a reporter.
Married and a mother before she was 20, Ms. Barkley moved to New York in the 1950s after her first marriage broke up. She found work interviewing potential contestants for televised beauty pageants as well as for game shows produced by the legendary Goodson-Todman company. She wrote for some of the shows and appeared on one of them, "I've Got a Secret."
"Her secret was she had triplets," said Mr. Shirley, one of six children from two of her five marriages.
After the game shows, Ms. Barkley worked as a writer and producer on talk shows for Helen Gurley Brown, Virginia Graham, Les Crane and Dick Cavett.
Quipping that she didn't want to spend her life "in the basically unskilled job of a network executive," Ms. Barkley worked as an independent producer for the Robert Stigwood Organization in 1974. Before leaving Los Angeles for retirement in Hawaii in 1988, she also developed movie projects for a company run by the Osmond family.