Disney tiers into cable management

G.M. positions created as soap channel bow nears

Disney-ABC Cable Networks will create separate general manager posts for each of its cable channels, strengthening its ranks before the group’s soap opera channel bows this January.

A management support team has also been formed, adding structure to Disney’s cable family — the Disney Channel, year-old Toon Disney, and the upcoming 24-hour sudser. Each cable web will be treated as a stand-alone business within the overriding Disney/ABC Cable Network group.

First move is upping Rich Ross to general manager and exec VP of production and programming at Disney Channel.

Still reporting to Disney-ABC Cable Networks prexy Anne Sweeney, Ross will oversee all the Disney Channel’s daily activities and drive the net’s creative content.

New team members at the cable group include Eleo Hensleigh as exec VP of marketing; Patrick Lopker, exec VP and chief financial officer; Peter Cullen, veep of new business development; and Dina Weinberg, VP of media relations.

Staffing up

Previously, the cable group’s leadership formally rested on the shoulders of Sweeney. But overseeing Disney’s soap opera channel launch, coupled with operating its other channels, required a full support staff.

“The team’s creative vision and expertise in the marketplace will help position Disney-ABC Cable Networks as a leader in the cable industry,” Sweeney said. “They will help to devise and execute new network plans as we capitalize on our already existing broad-range networks.”

Sweeney will announce the remaining two general managers for Toon Disney and the soap opera channel in the next six to 12 months.

Ross was most recently senior VP of programming and production at the Disney Channel, responsible for developing shows “Bug Juice,” “So Weird,” “The Famous Jett Jackson,” “Rolie Polie Olie” and “Bear in the Big Blue House.”

Prior to joining Disney, Ross was senior veep of development and production at FX. He was also VP of program enterprises at Nickelodeon, spearheading the launch of Nickelodeon U.K.

Promo planning

As the cable team’s exec VP of marketing, Hensleigh will steer all promotional planning for the group. She was most recently senior veep of marketing for Disney Channel and Disney-ABC Cable Networks, overseeing marketing for Disney’s “One Saturday Morning” and the bow of Toon Disney.

And as CFO of Disney-ABC Cable Network, Lopker will be responsible for the cable group’s finance, administrative, broadcast operations and human resources services. A 13-year vet of the Disney Channel, Lopker most recently was senior veep of finance and administration at the Disney Channel.

Cullen, as VP of business development, will formulate opportunities and growth strategies for Disney’s cable group. He was formerly prexy, sales strategy and planning for the Disney Channel.

And as Disney/ABC Cable Networks media relations VP, Weinberg will helm all public relations for current channels and networks in development. She’s worked in media relations for three years at Disney Channel and Toon Disney, and was previously director of publicity at FX.

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