NEW YORK — Anne Sweeney has been officially promoted to the position of president, Disney/ABC Cable Networks (Daily Variety, Aug. 3).
Sweeney fills the position left vacant when Geraldine Laybourne resigned in May to set up her own media company. She will report directly to ABC Inc. president Robert Iger, who announced Sweeney’s promotion Monday.
Sweeney will retain her title as president, Disney Channel, and she will continue to be based at that web’s headquarters in Los Angeles.
In her new position, Sweeney will be responsible for ABC’s ownership interests in Lifetime, A&E, the History Channel and E! Entertainment Television. She will also oversee ABC’s Saturday morning children’s programming block.
ABC owns Lifetime in a 50/50 joint venture with Hearst; 37.5% of A&E and its sister web, the History Channel; and 39% of E!
ESPN not included
Disney/ABC’s other major cable holding is ESPN, but Sweeney does not oversee the sports programmer.
Because she held the position of executive VP, Disney/ABC Cable Networks under Laybourne, Sweeney said her new job will not be radically different than her previous position.
“When I signed on with Disney two years ago, it was made clear to me that overseeing the other equity investments was important,” Sweeney said. “My workload and level of responsibility have increased.
“The cable business is one that changes very quickly,” Sweeney continued. “Part of my role for the company is to make sure its assets are evolving as quickly as the industry we live in.”
Sweeney said the most important current evolution in the cable business is the rollout of digital cable set-top boxes and the creation of digital networks to take advantage of all the new channel space that is being created.
The main digital webs under Sweeney’s command are Toon Disney and the Lifetime Movie Network.
Subscriber number grows
At the Disney Channel, Sweeney has overseen the net’s transformation from a pay channel to a basic channel. Since she joined Disney in February 1996, Disney Channel has grown from 15 million subscribers to more than 42 million.
Sweeney has accomplished this while growing revenue. As a basic channel, Disney is second only to ESPN as the highest-price national cable service.
Sweeney joined Disney from FX Networks, where she was president and CEO since 1993, when FX launched.
Prior to FX, Sweeney spent 12 years at Nickelodeon/Nick at Nite, where she was most recently senior VP of program enterprises. At Nick, she handled programming agreements, international program acquisitions and sales and co-production, and syndication of Nickelodeon programming.