Executive to top Disney Channels Worldwide

Disney has turned to its top marketing exec in Latin America to take on the tough assignment of succeeding Rich Ross as prexy of the Mouse’s Disney Channels Worldwide kidvid juggernaut.

Carolina Lightcap will relocate from Buenos Aires to Burbank to take the reins of Disney Channel’s far-flung operations, which encompass 94 channels and feeds in 169 countries and 33 languages. As part of the post-Ross shuffle an-nounced Tuesday, longtime Disney Channels Worldwide entertainment prexy Gary Marsh has taken on additional responsibilities as the company’s chief creative officer.

Lightcap reports to Anne Sweeney, co-chair of Disney’s Media Networks division and prexy of Disney/ABC Television Group. Sweeney cited the exec’s “wealth of experience, leadership acumen and programming, marketing and franchise-building skills” in announcing her promotion. Lightcap, who was not available for an interview, said in a statement that she was looking forward to helping to “create the future of kid-focused, family-inclusive entertainment.”

Under the direction of Ross and Marsh, Disney Channel’s operations have grown exponentially in the past five years as the cabler minted a new generation of hit programs (“Hannah Montana,” “High School Musical,” “Wizards of Waverly Place,” “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody”) and stars (Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato, Raven-Symone). The cabler’s success has fueled profits for other Mouse House divisions ranging from music to merchandising to its live touring biz.

Lightcap’s task will be to fill Ross’ shoes as head marketer and cheerleading for the channel’s ventures. She’s a highly regarded exec who is well liked within Disney but not very well known outside the Mouse in traditional showbiz circles. For the past three years she’s served in the dual role of senior veep of programming and creative affairs for Disney Channel Latin America, and as chief marketing officer for all of Disney in Latin America.

Lightcap impressed her bosses in Burbank by shepherding the Latin American adaptations of the “High School Musical” franchise, which yielded three Spanish-lingo feature films in Mexico, Brazil and Argentina, a series of talent competitions broadcast on the local Disney Channel cablers and a five-country concert tour. She also managed all marketing matters in the region for the Mouse’s film releases, consumer products, cruise line and interactive group, among other initiatives.

Lightcap emerged as a strong contender to succeed Ross shortly after his promotion to Walt Disney Studios chairman was made official early last month (Daily Variety, Oct. 6). Marsh was also seen as an heir apparent, but it’s understood the exec made it clear to Sweeney and others that he was comfortable in his role as programming boss, even if it meant reporting to Ross’ successor. The top prexy post involves a lot of travel, meeting with distribution partners and sundry corporate schmoozing that didn’t particularly appeal to Marsh, who’s been with the channel for more than 20 years.

Sweeney made sure to praise Marsh’s contributions in announcing his expanded focus on all manner of creative content under the Disney Channel imprint.

“His unique vision helped define Disney Channel as a global leader in kid and family entertainment while fueling a content bonanza for other areas of our company,” Sweeney said.

Lightcap joined Disney in 2000 as veep of marketing for media networks in Latin America. She was elevated to senior veep of programming and creative affairs for Disney Channel Latin America in 2004 and added the studiowide chief marketing responsibilities in 2006.

Before Disney, Lightcap worked as a programming exec in Miami for Sky Latin America Partners. Earlier in her career, she worked in Los Angeles for 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment and for the Fox Latin American Channel.

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