Exec to continue as consultant for rest of year

SoapNet general manager Deborah Blackwell is departing her post effective immediately but will continue as a consultant until her contract expires at the start of next year.

Departure comes following Disney-ABC Television Group’s decision last year to unite ABC Daytime, Buena Vista Prods. and SoapNet under one roof.

Under the restructure, Blackwell will not be replaced. Instead, Disney-ABC TV Group prexy of daytime Brian Frons will handle SoapNet’s day-to-day operation.

“With the recent changes to the group, changes which ensure SoapNet’s continued viability, it just seemed like the best time to move on,” Blackwell said. “We went from being this feisty startup into being now a successful channel, and it felt like time for a new challenge for me.”

Under Blackwell, the channel has grown in distribution to more than 67 million homes and has secured rights from NBC and CBS — in addition to sib ABC — to run same-day soap episodes. Channel has also acquired off-net primetime skeins such as “One Tree Hill” and “The OC” (and before that, “Melrose Place,” “Beverly Hills 90210″ and “Dallas”); SoapNet has also extended its stable of original programming — including its first-ever scripted entry, a spinoff of “General Hospital,” and reality entry “The Fashionista Diaries.”

“When we first started the channel, it was just replays of ABC soaps,” Blackwell said. “But we wanted to create a brand that’s young and hip and relevant to today’s viewers, and I think we very much succeeded in doing that.”

Frons said Blackwell has “built a strong foundation and successfully positioned the channel for future growth.”

“Her influence can be measured in distribution gains, original programming, acquisitions and the strength of SoapNet’s brand,” he said.

Blackwell said she’s on the lookout for her next gig and prefers to stay in cable, though she won’t rule out a new-media job.

“The plan is to look around for an exciting new venture,” she said. “I’ve been changing jobs every four or five years my entire life; this is the longest I’ve ever been at any job.”

Before SoapNet, Blackwell headed up the Internet startup MyHome.com; she also spent several years heading up TV movie and miniseries packaging at the William Morris Agency.

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